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Ferdinand Karl Piëch

Ferdinand Karl Piëch
Born 17 April 1937 (1937-04-17) (age 72)
Vienna, Austria
Occupation Automobile Engineer
Known for grandson of Ferdinand Porsche,
Volkswagen Group

Ferdinand Karl Piëch (17 April 1937) is an Austrian automobile engineer and manager. He is a grandson of Ferdinand Porsche, and son of Louise Piëch (the sister of Ferry Porsche).

Piëch was the winner of the award of Car Executive of the Century in 1999.[1]



Born in Vienna, Austria, Piëch graduated from the ETH Zurich, Switzerland in 1962, with a degree in mechanical engineering, having written a master thesis about the development of a Formula One (F1) engine. At the same time, Porsche was involved in F1 and developed an 8-cylinder for the Porsche 804.

From 1963 to 1971, he worked at Porsche in Stuttgart, on the development of the Porsche 906 and following models that led to the successful Porsche 917. In 1972, he moved to Audi in Ingolstadt, Germany. Starting from 1975, he was manager of technological engineering, being responsible for the concepts of the Audi 80 and Audi 100. He celebrated his 40th birthday on 17 April 1977 with a ball at which guests included Giorgetto Giugiaro and at which the staff of the Porsche Hotel presented him with an Audi 80 that was just 40 cm (16 in) long and constructed of marzipan.[2] In 1977 he also began the development of a car for the World Rally Championship, resulting in the four-wheel drive Audi Quattro. The engine used in the Quattro model was a turbocharged inline-5 cylinder unit.

Piëch held a small engineering company in the time between leaving Porsche AG and joining Audi, and while there he developed a 5 cylinder in-line diesel engine for Mercedes-Benz. He picked up the concept again after moving to Audi, because there was a market demand for engines with more than 4 cylinders. At the time, Audi (and the Audi-derived VW Passat/Santana model range) used logitudinally mounted inline engines and front wheel drive. More conservative layouts with 6 cylinders were abolished because of engineering and production costs (v6-engine) and packaging requirements (straight 6 did not fit because front wheel drive required that it be mounted in front of the axis).

In 1993, Piëch moved to Volkswagen AG, parent company of the Volkswagen Group, where he became Chairman of the Board of Management, succeeding Dr. Carl Hahn. He retired from the Board of Management in 2002, but as Chairman of the Supervisory Board, he still serves in an advisory capacity. In 2000, he was named chairman of Scania AB.[3] He retired from the management board in 2002 and succeeded as chairman by Bernd Pischetsrieder.

While head of Volkswagen Group, Piëch was known for his aggressive moves into other markets. He drove the Volkswagen and Audi brands upmarket with great success. Piëch also pursued other marques, successfully acquiring Lamborghini for Audi, and establishing Bugatti Automobiles SAS. His purchase of British Rolls-Royce and Bentley was more controversial. After successfully buying the Crewe, England carbuilding operation, VW was denied the use of the Rolls-Royce name. Piëch later claimed that he only really wanted the Bentley brand, but at the time the loss of Rolls to rival BMW was widely seen as a major failure.

What was not a failure, however, was his effort to rescue Volkswagen in North America. Dr. Hahn's previous efforts to regain market share in the United States and Canada - which he had built up as the head of Volkswagen of America from 1958 to 1965 - were to no avail, but Piech helped reverse VW's fortunes by agreeing to the manufacture of the Volkswagen New Beetle, the introduction of which in 1998 gave Volkswagen of America a much needed momentum.


At Porsche, Piëch triggered significant changes in the company's policy. For example, the position of drivers in race cars was moved from the left to the right, as this gives advantages on the predominantly clockwise race tracks. After making mainly small 2000 cc race cars that were supposed to be closely related to road cars, Porsche made a risky investment by unexpectedly building twenty-five 5000 cc Porsche 917, surprising the rule makers at the FIA. Even Ferrari had needed to sell his company to Fiat before making such a move. Always thinking big, Piëch started development of a 16-cylinder engine for the Can-Am series. It is probably no coincidence that his grandfather had developed a famous supercharged 16-cylinder engine for the Auto Union racing cars in the 1930s. Piëch was denied the chance to complete it, as a turbocharged version of the existing 12-cylinder was simpler, more powerful and very successful. Three decades later as CEO of Volkswagen Group, Piëch insisted on the very ambitious Bugatti Veyron, with a turbocharged W16-cylinder, 987 horsepower (736 kW) and 407 km/h (253 mph) top speed. Some of these figures are still not higher than those of the Porsche 917, but higher than most current racing cars. Piëch was also behind the Volkswagen Phaeton luxury saloon, which was intended as a rival to other German luxury cars, but the sales of the model have been disappointing.

Porsche ownership

Piëch owns a significant share of Porsche, roughly 13%. In order to prevent discussions among the many family members, a policy was established in early 1972 that no Porsche family member is allowed to be involved in the management of the company. Even company founder Ferry Porsche, Piëch's uncle, only held a seat on the supervisory board of Porsche after the company's legal form was changed from a limited partnership to a private legal company. This made Piëch move to Audi after the foundation of his engineering bureau.


  1. ^ "This Just In: Model T Gets Award". The New York Times. 1999-12-24. Retrieved 2008-05-08. 
  2. ^ "Personalien: Ferdinand Piech". Auto Motor u. Sport Heft 9 1977: Seite 7. date 27 April 1977. 
  3. ^ Ferdinand Piëch new chairman of the Scania Board 24 May 2000,

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