One of the titans of the automotive industry has passed away. Porsche patriarch, father of the Audi Quattro and Bugatti Veyron, and former Volkswagen chairman Ferdinand Piech died August 25, 2019. He was 82 years old.
The grandson of Ferdinand Porsche was born on April 17, 1937 and began work at Porsche in the early 60's. He was an engineer by profession and was part of the development team that spawned the 906, which would later become the successful 917 race car. That car would be the first of many influenced by Piech.
After several years with Porsche, he then moved on to Audi (still under the VW Group) and, there, transformed the company's image. In the 70's, Audi was a completely different company and not the luxury giant we know today. The brand from Ingolstadt was known for making economy cars but Piech changed all that when he led technical engineering of the Audi 80 and 100 models. These cars would later become the A4 and A6, the automaker's bread and butter offerings.
But the biggest transformation of Audi wouldn't have happened if Piech wasn't on board. Not only did he change the face of rallying, he also made a significant impact on the motoring industry. In the late 70's, he spearheaded the development of the Audi Quattro. The Quattro came out in 1980 with many skeptical about it. With a 'heavy' all-wheel drive system on board, there are those who said that it was doomed from the start.
However, when Audi entered it in the World Rally Championship the same year it was launched, it simply blew away the competition thanks to its grip on loose surfaces. Retired rally driver, Michelle Mouton, described the Quattro as a “complete shock” when she first drove it. From that moment on, most rally cars would have all-wheel drive.
But back to production cars, Piech would also be one of the pioneers of the aerodynamic revolution of the 1980's. In 1982, him, along with Audi, rolled out the third-generation Audi 100 which, at the time, boasted a drag co-efficiency of just 0.30, a low number at the time.
Then, in the 90's, Piech steered a dramatic turnaround for Volkswagen who, at the time, had been suffering major losses. He had managed to bring the automaker back from bankruptcy in less than a year. Later on, he acquired Lamborghini, Bentley, and Bugatti for the Volkswagen Auto Group.
Following the acquisition of Bugatti, Piech announced one of the most ambitious projects in automotive history. That was to create a car with over 1,000 horsepower but still be comfortable and reliable enough for the road. We now know that car today as the Veyron. Again, without the Veyron, the hypercar market might not be what it is now because of Piech's grand idea.
There are those who describe the man as eccentric, aggressive, demanding, and even controversial, but one cannot deny his contributions to the Volkswagen Auto Group. Even before his resignation in 2015, Volkswagen was at the top of the automotive global sales race, thanks in part to the years of Piech's leadership and management.
Without Piech, the world wouldn't have the Audi A4 and A6, the Quattro, Volkswagen Phaeton, Bugatti Veyron, and more. He saved Audi, Volkswagen, Bugatti, Lamborghini, and Bentley, and gave the world a little extra traction thanks to putting all-wheel drive in passenger cars. It's safe to say then that Piech's impact on the industry isn't just significant, it's seismic.