Pronunciation: pee - esh
Prof. Dr. techn. h.c. Ferdinand Piëch (Ferdinand Karl Piëch), born April 17, 1937 in Vienna is an automobile engineer and manager.
Piëch graduated from the ETH Zurich in 1962 with a degree in mechanical engineering, having written a Master Thesis about the development of a Formula One engine. At the same time, Porsche was involved in F1 and developed an 8-cylinder for the Porsche 804.
Piëch was the winner of the award of Car Executive of the Century in 1999.
- 1963-1971 — At Porsche in Stuttgart, where he worked on the development of the Porsche 906 and following models that led to the successful Porsche 917
- 1972-1992 — At Audi in Ingolstadt, since 1975 manager of technological engineering, where he was responsible for the concepts of the Audi 80 and Audi 100. He also in 1977 began the development of a car for the World Rally Championship, the result was the all wheel drive Audi Quattro. The engine used in the Quattro model was a turbocharged 5 cylinder in-line unit. Piëch had 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, but as this also had to fit into the front wheel drive Volkswagen Passat/Santana, where the engine is mounted transversally, a 6 cylinder in-line which would normally have been chosen could not be used as it would have been too long.
- 1993-2002 — At Volkswagen, where he became chairman and CEO, succeeding Dr. Carl Hahn. He retired from the management board in 2002, but as chairman of the supervisory board he still serves in an advisory capacity.
While head of Volkswagen AG, Piëch was known for his aggressive moves into other markets. He drove the VW 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 Rolls-Royce and Bentley Motors Limited was more controversial. After successfully buying the Crewe, England carbuilding operation, Volkswagen Group was denied ownership of the Rolls-Royce name. Piëch later claimed that he only really wanted the Bentley brand, but the loss of Rolls-Royce 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 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 needed momentum. The car was a hit from the day it went on sale. The 1999 fourth-generation Volkswagen Jetta, with its Beetle-esque roofline, its classy interior, and its advanced chassis and available engines, was a major success with young American buyers, who loved the car's distinctive shape. The fact that it outsold the fourth-generation Golf in North America proved once again that Americans and Canadians preferred a trunk to a hatch, suggesting that VW was finally giving North Americans product that they genuinely wanted. The Golf, however, remained available for U.S. and Canadian buyers who still appreciated hatchback versatility.
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 predominant 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 CanAm series. It is propably 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 VW, Piëch insisted on the very ambitious Bugatti Veyron, with a turbocharged 16-cylinder, 1001 hp (746 kW) and 400 km/h top speed. These figures are close to or even higher than those of the Porsche 917 and most current racing cars. Piech was also behind the sports saloon the Volkswagen Phaeton which was intended as a rival to the BMW M5 and the Mercedes-Benz CLS and many motorig jornalists beleve that it is the best car in its class.
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.
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