Ferdinand Piech: German auto 'patriarch' wins

14th August 2009, Comments 0 comments

The merger will see Porsche integrated by 2011 as Volkswagen's 10th brand alongside the historic Audi, Bentley, Bugatti and Lamborghini names, marking a crowning career achievement for the ambitious car tycoon.

Frankfurt -- Volkswagen chairman Ferdinand Piech, grandson of the inventor of the VW Beetle, was more than ever Germany's auto godfather on Thursday with the approval of his vision of a tie-up with Porsche.

And his plans to overtake Toyota as the world's number one carmaker also received a major boost after the supervisory boards of Porsche and Volkswagen gave their seal of approval to the merger plan.

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

The merger will see Porsche integrated by 2011 as Volkswagen's 10th brand alongside the historic Audi, Bentley, Bugatti and Lamborghini names, marking a crowning career achievement for the ambitious car tycoon.

Piech put everything he had into the years-long fight to create a German auto giant, and even took the rare step of publicly exposing family disputes, in particular with his cousin, Porsche chairman Wolfgang Porsche.

The 72-year-old seemed isolated at times during the struggle, even though he was nicknamed "the emperor" and "the patriarch" by German media.

But over the course of several decades, he has overcome obstacles and disgrace, bouncing back when the press said he was finished.

His dream has been to create a German auto giant that makes 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 Japan's Toyota in his sights as foreign brands were already chipping away at US domination of the sector that is now finally over thanks to the economic crisis.

Over the years, Piech patiently assembled his puzzle.

Chief executive 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.

As 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, even after relations soured last year when Porsche management launched a failed and costly bid to take over the far larger Volkswagen.

Last month marked a crucial victory when Porsche and Volkswagen reached an initial agreement on the merger and Porsche chief executive Wendelin Wiedeking, who had helped push the failed takeover plan, was forced to quit.

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

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

AFP/Expatica

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