Volkswagen's Ferdinand Piech Resigns as Board Chairman After Internal Dispute

Battles are usually being fought in the automotive realm between carmakers, and that's a perfectly normal thing. But often, fights from inside a brand can shape what's going to happen in its future.
Ferdinand Piech 1 photo
Photo: VW
Ferdinand Piech, Volkswagen Board Chairman, resigned following a long, tension-packed interval stretching over the last past weeks and a recent confrontation with CEO Martin Winterkorn.

A grandson of the visionary Ferdinand Porsche, Piech decided to suddenly end his long-serving career that lasted for more than 20 years among Volkswagen's top ranking staff.

According to Automotive News, the 78-year old executive, known for previously stepping up against crossing attempts from fellow executives, was "isolated in a five-to-one vote of Volkswagen's steering committee last week".

"The members of the steering committee came to a consensus that, in the light of the past weeks, the mutual trust necessary for successful cooperation was no longer there. Against this background, Professor Doctor Ferdinand K. Piech resigned from his office as chairman as well as all his supervisory board mandates within the Volkswagen group with immediate effect," said a statement after a meeting on Saturday.

The general context

According to reports, the relationship between Piech and Winterkorn deteriorated dramatically over different views on how to make full use of the US market. As many of you know, VW passed GM last year as the world's second-largest carmaker (by sales volume) and was on its way to take the Number One spot from Toyota. Internal debates on how such a goal affects profits have been going on for a while and it remains to be seen whether the target still stands.

In case you were wondering what Ferdinand Piech did for Volkswagen and the car industry, here's something to refresh your general petrolhead knowledge.

Piech was the one who green-lighted projects like the Audi Quattro, Bugatti Veyron and Volkswagen Phaeton. In addition, he kept the bar high for Volkswagen in the continuous battle with General Motors and Toyota we mentioned above, allowing the VW Group to challenge the title for the world's biggest car manufacturer.

The man obviously doesn't like being upstaged. Multiple important figures within the VW Group were forced to leave the company over the years after confronting him on various topics, from development to marketing.

Give this man a pen and a piece of paper and he'll draw you a complete engine sketch. Piech has done this to fight the boredom of train traveling, which he was on the amazing bullet train in Japan. Don't imagine he lacks the practical side though. The story about Piech putting a coin on its rim over the body of VW Group cars to test the smoothness of an engine is absolutely true.

Porsche owns quite a lot of its motorsport laurels to Piech. Remember the Le Mans-winning Porsche 917 racecar? It was Piech's idea.

Returning to the current situation, since the Piech and the Porsche families own the majority of VW Group stakes, Ferdinand Piech may be sketching his next move as you are reading this. And he's probably doing this while dreaming about the future of Bugatti, who is currently testing the Veyron successor.
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