So, Dr. Ferdinand Piech has taken his toys and left the office. In a rare loss during a boardroom battle, Piech failed to unseat current VWAG Chairman, Dr. Martin Winterkorn – his one time protégé.
|Dr.Martin Winterkorn (L) and Dr. Piech
I, for one, am very sad to see him go. I respect and admire him very much and the contribution he made to building the Volkswagen Group into a formidable automotive empire should never be underestimated.
Yes, Piech is the complete autocrat, and ruled with a successful blend of logic, fear and unstintingly high standards in everything from the performance of his executives, to tight panel gaps and bold automotive ventures. But, you know what? I like autocrats. They get things done where cautious committees and consensus-driven managers waffle and pfaff about.
In a very rare event, I was flown to Wolfsburg on one of VWAG’s executive jets to be introduced to Dr. Piech shortly after I had been appointed as Head of PR for Bentley Motors North America. He greeted me graciously; we talked about the difficult tasks ahead (building the Bentley brand in North America, from ground zero), and what his expectations were for Bentley Motors overall.
I continued to meet Dr. Piech and his charming wife at many European motor shows after that. He always greeted me by name, and he recognized I was a car enthusiast. We often discussed various new cars on show, and their pertinent qualities. He is a serious car nut – but coming from the Porsche family lineage, what would you expect?
Given the global powerhouse that the Volkswagen Group has become under Piech’s leadership, I’m not sure what will happen now. If Dr. Winterkorn is elected as Chairman of the Supervisory Board I think things may well follow in the Piech manner – after all, Winterkorn learned at the knee of the Master.
The last thing VWAG needs now is weak management and lack of purpose. Also, there may be some quivering idiots on the Board who may push for VWAG to discard some of the brands it has built from nothing – like Bugatti, Bentley and Lamborghini. What a dumb thing that would be!
Okay, Dr. Piech is 89, and maybe it’s time for him to smell the roses, but I am really sorry to see him go.
I’m certain he wanted to go on smelling petrol fumes rather than roses, until the day his tank ran empty.
We lived in the era of a great automotive genius. Farewell Ferdinand, you did a fantastic job!