Ferdi wasn’t always a household name. Here’s where he came in…
With reports earlier this week suggesting Ferdinand Piëch has threatened to resign over his failed attempt to oust VW CEO Martin Winterkorn, it’s as good a time as any to look at possibly his earliest appearance in the UK press.
The print ad dates from 1979; a pre-Vorsprung Durch Technic Audi still a niche player in the UK. Here, the creative attempts to draw comparisons between the 100 saloon and Porsche’s mighty Le Mans winning 917 endurance racer. Note the nonchalant manner in which Rennsport-Ferdi leans against the Porche’s rear buttress – possibly the only point on the racer’s outer skin that wouldn’t have bucked under the slightest pressure – the 917’s panels being notoriously flimsy. The stance is casual, no-nonsense, assertive. Contrast this with the more demure pose Dr. Piëch adopts next to the Audi. Arms clasped behind, suit jacket buttoned; a serious man for a serious car.
The 100 was well thought of by the motoring press, although it was criticised by Car for being noisy, despite Audi’s protestations to the contrary. It proved instrumental in gaining Audi a toehold in the executive class – something they capitalised on once its aerodynamic looking successor took a bow two years later – along with that now immortal tag line.
In addition to making the (slightly tenuous) point that the engineer responsible for the fire-breathing flat-12 engined Porsche sprinkled a little race-winning fairy dust onto the terribly sensible 5-cylinder 100 saloon you could purchase from a mere £5790 plus registration tax, this ad illustrates how badly Audi needed a stronger sales proposition than the one offered here. Having found one, Audi no longer needed to wheel out Dr. Piëch to advertise their wares. It’s now starting to look increasingly like they won’t require his services at all.