Wolfsburg (AP) - He was the VW Patriarch. And he is considered a century manager. Ferdinand Piëch wrote economic history and was one of the most dazzling figures in German industry.
For a long time he was almost uncontested about the VW Reich. Now Piëch died at the age of 82 years, as the German Press Agency was confirmed on Monday from well-informed circles. At first the "Bild" newspaper reported about it.
Volkswagen and Ferdinand Piëch - for a long time, this team was considered one unit. His first experience as a motorist but brought him trouble: At age nine, he remained hanging on his maiden voyage with the bumper at the garage door. Decades later, the little boy of those days was supposed to be one of the most powerful industrial managers in the world, steering an auto empire.
Piëch transformed Volkswagen into a global corporation. But then he alienated himself from his life's work. In 2015, he made a stir with the statement, he was "at a distance" to the then CEO Martin Winterkorn - he lost the power struggle and threw in anger.
For a long time, Volkswagen was hard to imagine without Piëch. For decades, he was a dominant figure in the auto industry. His authoritarian style of leadership was feared. "My need for harmony is limited," he wrote in his autobiography from 2003. Hardly he would have expected to lose the power struggle in 2015 with his longtime close confidant Winterkorn. But with the help of an alliance from the state of Lower Saxony and the powerful works council, the younger prevailed.
Piëch, born on 17 April 1937 grandson of the legendary beetle constructor Ferdinand Porsche, resigned as chairman of the supervisory board, then he appeared only rarely in public. Born in Austria, he moved back to his residence in Salzburg. What initially remained for him was the supervisory board mandate of the Volkswagen main owner Porsche SE - the families Porsche and Piëch hold 100 percent of the voting rights in the company. 14.7 percent of them belonged to Piëch at the time. In 2017, he offered his relatives the bulk of the stock package, which took hold. One could not choose family, commented his cousin Wolfgang Porsche at that time.
Previously, Ferdinand Karl Piëch, so his full name, stood for many years in the middle of the VW center of power. The former head of Audi was CEO of Volkswagen from 1993 to 2002 and then led the Supervisory Board for a long time - as the main protagonist of the Porsche families and Piëch, the major VW shareholder. His power seemed unlimited, in 2012 he even hoisted his wife Ursula - called Uschi - into the VW board. He was considered a stripper and kingmaker behind the scenes. When the former CEO Bernd Pischetsrieder had to leave in 2006, Piëch should have exercised his influence.
The detail-loving car enthusiast Piëch finally steered the ever-widening VW empire together with Winterkorn with a strict hand, hierarchical and centralist - the "mirror" once described the atmosphere at Volkswagen under the duo as "North Korea minus a labor camp".
After the era of alpha manager Piëch and Winterkorn - and especially after the drastic exhaust scandal - there was hardly a stone left on Volkswagen. A "cultural change" was proclaimed by Winterkorn's successor Matthias Müller: less centralism, more responsibility for the individual managers, more internal criticism were the goals. The staff should no longer tremble before a patriarch like Piëch, who was also called "the old man" in Wolfsburg - or by a small shareholder once "father of the gods".
He had come in a serious crisis to Wolfsburg, mass layoffs threatened. This was prevented by Piëch hired personnel board Peter Hartz together with works council and union - thanks to the introduction of the four-day week, which was tilted until the end of 2006. Born in Austria, Piëch was not just a manager - the technology-obsessed mechanical engineer could also screw up a motor. Privately, he liked to sail, dealt with Far Eastern culture and Japanese ethics.
Already during his lifetime, there were many superlatives for the VW Patriarch. "Ferdinand Piëch has shaped the automotive industry like no other," said ex-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (SPD) once. He replied that car-building was just his hobby.
What was left of the car-loving "old man"? His successor as VW Supervisory Board Chairman, Hans Dieter Pötsch, expressed it once diplomatically: He emphasized his great respect for Piëch - "despite one or the other atmospheric cloudiness last». He goes on to say: "Personally, I think that Mr. Ferdinand Piëch has set memorable milestones in the automotive industry and that he has a significant share in the existence of the Volkswagen Group, as he presents himself today." Piëch's achievements would be absolutely unforgettable, regardless of other topics. " stay".
2017 then the turning point: Piëch sold a billions of shares package, the former VW Group CEOs separated from a large part of its shares in the VW parent company Porsche SE - these went to relatives. The Porsche Piëch dynasty continues to rule after the death of the ex-patriarch.