• Germany's news in English

The man in the driver's seat: VW's Ferdinand Piech

AFP · 23 Jul 2009, 21:02

Published: 23 Jul 2009 21:02 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

"I don't like to be second," he once famously declared.

Piech, 72, put everything he had into the years-long fight, and even took the rare step of publicly exposing family disputes, in particular with his cousin, Wolfgang Porsche. Piech seemed isolated at times, a far cry from his media nicknames of "the emperor" or "patriarch."

But over the course of several decades, the grandson of Ferdinand Porsche has overcome obstacles and disgrace, bouncing back when the press said he was finished. His dream was to create a German auto giant that made everything from heavy trucks to limousines, able to compete with the best to become number one.

Fifteen years ago, Piech called for an "auto war," with the Japanese car maker Toyota in his sights as foreign brands were already chipping away at US domination of the sector. Over the course of a decade, Piech patiently assembled his puzzle. Head of VW from 1993 to 2002, he reorganised the group and cleaned up its books at the cost of tens of thousands of jobs. VW also began launching new models, in particular via its high-end unit Audi, which now competes with Mercedes and BMW.

Head of VW's supervisory board since 2002, Piech also got the group involved with the heavy truck maker MAN and is pushing for a tie-up with Scania of Sweden. VW owns the biggest stake in each company.

Piech has been instrumental in getting Porsche and VW closer together, a move that began in 2005. He swears it was not his idea however, insisting it was suggested by Porsche head Wendelin Wiedeking.

A honeymoon period between the two companies quickly turned sour however, with Wiedeking sparking opposition from VW unions and directors following a series of provocative remarks, notably that there were no "sacred cows" at VW.

Wiedeking audaciously built up a 51 percent stake in VW - with share options giving him even more - but the financial crisis put paid to his plans to swallow up the much larger VW. The approach left Porsche deep in debt and caused squabbles among the families, but on Thursday, Wiedeking threw in the towel and VW appeared to have won the upper hand. It now plans to take over Porsche and make it just another brand.

Story continues below…

Born on April 17, 1937 in Vienna, Ferdinand Piech was always fascinated by automobiles.

"I have played with technical things since my earliest days," he said.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Creepy clown scare spreads to Germany
Two of the clowns were apparently equipped with chainsaws. Photo: Pedro Pardo / AFP file picture

Police said Friday five incidents involving so-called scary clowns had occurred in two north German town, including one assailant who hit a man with a baseball bat, amid fears that Halloween could spark a rash of similar attacks.

Student fined for spying on women via their webcams
Photo: DPA

Student from Munich fined €1,000 for spying on 32 different computers, using their webcams to take photographs, or record their keyboard history.

This is how much startup geeks earn in Germany
Photo: DPA

A comprehensive new survey of 143 startup founders shows how much you are likely to be earning at a German startup, from entry level all the way up to sitting on the board.

Man dies after beating for peeing near Freiburg church
The Johannes Church in Freiburg. Photo Jörgens Mi/Wikipedia

A middle-aged man from southern Germany has died after being attacked by a group of men who took umbrage with the fact he was urinating in the vicinity of a church.

The Local List
Seven German celebrities with uncanny doppelgängers
Former Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit and actor Alec Baldwin. Photo: DPA; Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons

Check out these seven look-a-likes of well known German figures - we admit that some are more tenuous than others...

Israel seeks to buy three new German submarines: report
A Dolphin class submarine. Photo: DPA

Israel is seeking to buy three more advanced submarines from Germany at a combined price of €1.2 billion, an Israeli newspaper reported Friday.

Here’s where people live the longest in Germany
Photo: DPA

Germans down south seem to know the secret to a long life.

More Germans identify as LGBT than in rest of Europe
Photo: DPA

The percentage of the German population which identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is higher than anywhere else in Europe, according to a new study.

'Reichsbürger' pair attack police in Saxony-Anhalt
File photo: DPA.

A "Reichsbürger" and his wife attacked police officers on Thursday, just a day after another Reichsbürger fatally shot an officer in Bavaria.

Five things not to miss at the Frankfurt Book Fair
Photo: DPA

From consulting a book doctor to immersing yourself in an author's world with the help of virtual reality, here are five things not to miss at this week's Frankfurt Book Fair, the world's largest publishing event.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd