Ferdinand Piëch, the former head of the Volkswagen Group and a key figure behind the company’s growth into one of the world’s largest automotive firms, has died, reports German newspaper Bild. He was 82. The newspaper reported that the Austrian died on Sunday, although the news has yet to be confirmed by the Piëch family, Porsche SE or Volkswagen.
The grandson of Ferdinand Porsche, Piëch created a huge legacy in the car industry, both through his leadership of the VW Group and his skills as an engineer.
Piëch first joined Porsche, the firm founded by his grandfather, after graduating from university in 1963. He led the development of the fabled Porsche 917, which won the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1970. However, due to an agreement that no member of the Piëch/Porsche family should be involved in the day-to-day running of Porsche, he left to join the VW Group’s Audi in 1975.
As head of Audi’s technical engineering division Piëch led the development of the Audi 80 and 100, and played a key role in approving the development of the four-wheel-drive Audi Quattro Group B rally car. He was pivotal in Audi’s reinvention as a premium brand to rival BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
In 1993 Piëch became chairman of Volkswagen’s management board, at a time when the company was in deep financial trouble. He turned the company around by spearheading the development of modular construction techniques that could be applied across the VW Group’s brands, and by the aggressive acquisition of Skoda, Bentley, Bugatti and Lamborghini, along with truck makers MAN and Scania and the Ducati bike firm.
He also helped to forge closer ties between the VW Group and Porsche, both of which are owned by the Piëch/Porsche family’s holding firm Porsche SE, of which Piech owned 10 percent.
While Piëch was forced to retire from his role leading VW when he turned 65, he remained a key figure on the firm’s supervisory board until retiring in 2015, as the dieselgate scandal was emerging.