End of an Era: Ferdinand Piëch Has Died

The German press is reporting today that Volkswagen Group magnate and Porsche family contrarian Ferdinand Piëch has died at the age of 82. Seen as one of the fathers of quattro, Piëch led Audi from 1988 to 1993, the Volkswagen Group from 1993 to 2002, then chairman of the Volkswagen Supervisory Board.

Reports suggest that Dr. Piëch collapsed Sunday in a restaurant in Rosenheim (Bavaria). He was rushed to a hospital where he eventually passed.

Piëch was born in Vienna in 1937, son of attorney Anton Piëch and Loise Piëch, daughter of of Ferdinand Porsche. He attended a boarding school in Switzerland, then later studied mechanical engineering, writing his thesis on Formula 1 engine development.

In 1966, Piëch began a career at the family business Porsche, then later moved to Audi where he would be instrumental in the decision to adopt quattro technology as a core of the Audi brand in its bid to rebuild its prewar position as an industry leader and take on rivals BMW and Mercedes-Benz. There, he also pushed 5-cylinder engine technology and lightweight construction methods including use of the aluminum Audi Space Frame (ASF) construction. He became CEO of Audi in 1988.

In 1993 he moved to become CEO at a seriously ailing Volkswagen. His move to the Volkswagen board came in 2002, where he remained until 2015 when a falling-out with then Volkswagen Group boss Martin Winterkorn marked a rare loss for Piëch that resulted in his departure.

Dr. Ferdinand Piëch’s guidance at Porsche, Audi and Volkswagen mark what will likely be seen as a halcyon period in the auto industry. His ability to soldier automobiles, not to mention implementation of advanced technologies and production methods, pushed the car industry like few if any. The portfolio of cars attributed to Piëch are notable icons. His passing marks the end of an era.