Ferdinand Pich Peels Away From the Family Business

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

After an extended battle with his family, Ferdinand Piëch has finally acquiesced to resign from the board of Porsche Automobil Holding SE and sell off his remaining shares. At 80 years of age, leaving VW Group’s parent company was probably long overdue for Piëch, but you can’t help but wonder if the manner in which his retirement unfolded hasn’t left him bitter.

Still, with his 14.7 percent stake rumored to be worth over a billion euros, he’ll have the means to stage the most elaborate revenge any of us could possibly imagine — assuming that’s what he intends. One certainly could make the case that he’d have valid reasons for doing it.

Piëch’s retirement is official. Porsche SE announced it Wednesday, saying “Ferdinand K. Piëch, as part of the completion of the aforementioned assignments today, has resigned from his office as member of the Supervisory Board of Porsche Automobil Holding SE with effect as of 8 December 2017.”

The road to this point has been particularly ugly and actions taken resulted in some exceptionally sour gapes among the Piëch and Porsche families. Ferdinand resigned from VW Group after losing a power struggle with his former protege, then-CEO Martin Winterkorn, that would have made even the darkest Sith Lord wince. Already from a competitive ancestry and a black sheep to boot, Piëch was infamous for being savagely competitive — allegedly saying to the rest of his family, “I am a wild boar. You are domestic pigs,” in an attempt to highlight that he was driven by conquest while they were not.

That attitude helped him develop Audi into the brand it is today and, ultimately, brought great success to VW Group as a whole. Despite making his extended family even more wealthy than they were before, Piëch took heat for “intentionally sabotaging” Porsche’s takeover of VW.

Following the public disclosure of Volkswagen’s emissions scandal, Piëch was believed to have intentionally incriminated the supervisory board and his cousin, Wolfgang Porsche, to the Brunswick state attorney’s office in Germany. He said the board had been made aware of the illegal manipulation of diesel exhaust gasses months before the official disclosure. The matter drove an even deeper wedge between Ferdinand and the rest of the family.

There is reason to believe him, too. According to Automotive News, Piëch’s self-claimed priorities were, “Volkswagen, family and money — in that order.”

Ferdinand’s departure makes room on the board for younger members of the Porsche-Piëch clan. Josef Ahorner, chairman and primary shareholder the Emarsys marketing platform, is seen as the most likely replacement for his uncle. But I’d rather see Piëch stick around and continue mixing it up with his kooky relatives.

[Image: Volkswagen AG]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Kenwood Kenwood on Nov 10, 2017

    This is so sad. I've always liked this guy. He was Germany's Bob Lutz, "Maximale Ferry". I loved his bold moves and arrogant style. He did so, so much for VW, Audi and Porsche across their history and even with the Bentley and Bugatti brands. He will be sorely missed. I truly hope he does something huge and independent and builds his own new empire to compete with VW. Much respect, Herr Doktor!

  • Hreardon Hreardon on Nov 12, 2017

    A fascinating man with great accomplishments under his belt; Along with a trail of destructions. I have read many articles comparing Steve Jobs' management style to Piech, but there is one major difference between the two: Steve Jobs' leadership style changed and matured significantly over the years and he developed into a phenomenal teacher and builder of talent. Piech, on the other hand, never developed into a leader and bringer of talent - he cultivated a culture of fear that ultimately led to the diesel scandal. Piech's reign of terror created a culture where nobody felt that they could say 'no' or constructively push back on him. If you disagreed, he simply fired you - often times on the spot. He was the German Michael Corleone, operating quietly, ruthlessly and mercurially behind the scenes. It creates a culture of yes-men, of subordinates who cease doing anything that is not centrally dolled out by the boss; Of people who are executing without thinking - or who are afraid of pushing back. When Ferdinand Piech said he wanted clean diesels he simply fired everyone who said that it couldn't be done until he found someone to deliver on his goal. Go listen to Bob Lutz telling the story of how Piech achieved the industry leading panel-gap size of the MKIV Golf and you'll understand everything you need to learn about his management style.

  • Ravenuer Looking forward to it!
  • Daniel J I love my mazda 6. It's getting harder and harder to drive it around where I live as municipalities fail to repair roads. SUVs are just easier to drive with all of the potholes.
  • 1995 SC On the plus side, I found a sedan I want to buy
  • Teddyc73 As I asked earlier under another article, when did "segment" or "class" become "space"? Does using that term make one feel more sophisticated? If GM's products in other segments...I mean "space" is more profitable then sedans then why shouldn't they discontinue it.
  • Robert Absolutely!!! I hate SUV's , I like the better gas milage and better ride and better handling!! Can't take a SUV 55mph into a highway exit ramp! I can in my Malibu and there's more than enough room for 5 and trunk is plenty big enough for me!