Sad news last week: Ferdinand Piech has died, aged 82. Like many who make at great success in their field and achieve much during the course of their lives, he had talent allied to a pretty forceful character. I met him two times: once in my former job at Valeo in Bobigny when he visited the lighting facilities. I was impressed by his blue eyes and the sharp technological questions he asked me about components, lenses, reflectors, and light sources—it really showed his passion about every kind of automotive technology. The second time was at one of the IAA autoshows in Frankfurt, where he greeted me with “Hello, Valeo guy!”. He had the same blue eyes reflecting the passion of what he was seeing at this show.
Piech was the architect of an industrial strategy that saw the VW Group expand into a major global force on the back of brand acquisitions and a design and manufacturing overhaul framed around consolidating models to common group platforms across the brands. He was CEO of VW Group from 1993-2002 and thereafter wielded considerable power as chair of the company’s supervisory board until 2015.He had a reputation as a tough manager who would sometimes force his ideas through despite internal resistance. His industrial strategy from the 1990s to build the Volkswagen Group into a major global force built on scale economies and at the same time acquire premium brands such as Bentley, Bugatti and Lamborghini, leaves a considerable legacy.
We will never forget this talented engineer who spent two decades as head of Audi before moving to the top job at VW Group in 1993.
And a lesson for all of us: the passion in his job is the first level to succeed !