Ferdinand Karl Piech is one of a handful of accomplished businessmen/engineers in the auto industry. He is on the board of Volkswagen, and one of the chief engineers for Porsche. He was the CEO of Volkswagen, Chairman of the Board for VW, chief engineer at Audi, and Chief Racing Engineer for Porsche. SLACKER!!! He is a ruthless man, firing any “idiot that makes the same mistake twice.” The big-eared, stick-skinny, balding 74-year-old may not look like he’s done a lot, but you will be pleasantly surprised when you see how much he HAS done.
Born in 1937 to fabulous wealth, to one of Ferdinand Porsche’s sons, Ferdinand Karl Piech knew that he liked cars from the moment his father bought a Volkswagen Beetle in 1941. He loved its cute lines, and small, but get-the-neighbors-mad, 1594 CC engine. Piech graduated from the ETH Zürich, in Switzerland, with a degree in mechanical engineering.
In 1963, Piech was hired by Porsche to work on their racing program. The brilliant, dyslexic engineer soon came up with a 3.0 liter naturally aspirated V8 that made close to 850 horsepower and 630 pound-foot of torque. He made a fortune within one F1 season when his engine propelled the Porsche 906 to 37 out of 40 victories. All of the victories were first-place finishes! A couple of F1 seasons later, a Porsche executive came up to the 28-year-old Piech, and had him start working on the hugely successful Porsche 917. A few months later, Piech was in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the world’s youngest millionaire.
Eight years later, “the wing-nut eared”*, slightly balding 36-year-old engineer moved to Audi. He immediately started working on the Audi 80. Not long after, he started work on the Audi 100. He then helped with the concept and production cars.
For Piech’s 40th birthday, he had a gala event at the Porsche Hotel, with geniuses such as Giorgio Giarguetto (founder of Pininfarina). When the birthday cake was brought out, Piech was crying: The cake was an Audi 80, that was constructed out of marzipan, and 16 inches long!
Later that year, Piech started work on what would become the Audi Quattro. He firmly believed in the five-cylinder engine. When the Audi Quattro came into production, it was the fastest car that ever went into the World Rally Championships. It had a turbocharged five-cylinder engine that made over 510 horsepower in some iterations. As the British car magazine, Top Gear, put it, “It’s @*@%^!# fast, macho-cool, and epic…).
When Piech (through Volkswagen) bought Rolls-Royce and Bentley, he was denied the use of the name Rolls-Royce on any new luxury vehicles. In a rage, Piech put Rolls-Royce back onto the stock market, where BMW bought an 96% share (Now they have 100%).
In the 1990’s, Piech was instrumental in keeping the remaining bits of Bugatti Automobiles SAS, around. Thus, the Bugatti EB110 was born. Faster than the Jaguar XK220, Lamborghini Countach, and the Ferrari 575 Maranello, the EB110 made anybody lucky enough to buy and drive one feel like a man again.
Two decades later, the Bugatti Veyron was introduced at the Geneva Auto Show. With a 1,001 horsepower, 922 foot-pound of torque 8.0 liter W16 engine, it persuades pedestrians NOT to jaywalk, and wait until there’s a red light. Just so they can stare those extra five seconds at those headlights coming closer at 253 mph. I’m sorry, I REALLY don’t want to give you nightmares!
In 2002, the Automobile journalist, George Kacher made peace with Piech after years of bickering. When a few journalists were invited to take a prelaunch drive of the VW Phaeton in Abu Dhabi, Piech told George “Keep your foot down. It’s all paid for.” When he said that, Kacher had his foot planted on the floor, with the Phaeton going an indicated 186 mph. Piech’s fourth wife, Uschi Piech was giggling in the passenger seat as moped riders were giving them rude hand gestures!
Piech is the father of twelve children, from four different wives. Three of his sons are into racing. One is an instructor for the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, another is a mechanic for the Flying Lizard Porsche 911 racing team. The other is a mechanic for VW’s rally teams. The other four sons have various jobs. This leaves Piech’s five daughters. I think that the most notable job of one of his daughters is working as a paramedic for the Nurburgring Racetrack!
Some of the cars that Piech and Uschi own are: two 2009 Bugatti Veyrons, one Bentley Mulsanne, an Audi Quattro, an Audi TT RS, and a Rolls-Royce Corniche. By the way, the Veyrons are used as daily drivers by Piech and Uschi! Piech’s odometer on his Veyron just reached 70,000 miles!
*Thank You, Automobile Magazine!