A giant of the automotive world has departed. His like will not be seen again.
Ferdinand Piëch was not easily satisfied. Anything less than the relentless shedding of blood, sweat and tears he considered insufficient initiative – an approach many found misanthropic, yet from Piëch’s perspective, it was a mere matter of applying a categorical imperative. He would never expect more from anybody else than from himself.
The crushing arrogance of Piëch telling off a rather cocky prosecutor (who had repeatedly mispronounced ‘Lamborghini’) as part of his testimony during the ‘Lustreisen-Affäre’ trial years ago speaks not just of his self-confidence, but, again, his utter disdain for incompetence. The cars from Sant’ Agata aren’t called ‘Lamborjeeny’, after all.
Fathering 13 children in order to hedge his bets – so to speak – insofar as ensuring his engineering genius is passed on to the next generation is another case-in-point of drastic action and decision making that must have appeared utterly and unspectacularly logical from Piëch’s own perspective. As is, allegedly, sleeping on the ground, rather than in bed.
Piëch’s spirit and work ethic didn’t solely affect the realms of engineering and business, but design as well.
For it was Piëch himself who, when presented with a life-size model of the current Škoda Superb, immediately voiced his approval, with a single caveat: To his eyes, the car needed a clamshell bonnet to achieve true stylistic coherence. With Piëch being Piëch, it was immediately approved.
What he couldn’t have known at that point was that the Superb had originally been designed with the very same clamshell bonnet he’d instinctively requested – only for the design to be changed by management prior to its finalisation, as it was deemed too ‘premium’ for Škoda. It took Piëch’s interference to reinstate the designers’ original vision.
To Piëch, nothing was ever too ‘premium’, ambitious, expensive or exhaustive. He would obviously always strive for what he considered excellence, depending on each context. Hence the VW XL1 and Phaeton, Audi A8 & Quattro, Porsche 917 and Bugatti Veyron.
What seemed excessive to most people was normal to Piëch. What seemed acceptable to most people appeared inadequate to Piëch.
Duality is an inevitable consequence of the kind of single-mindedness Ferdinand Piëch applied throughout his career. It is the consequence of genius.
Ferdinand Karl Piëch: 1937 – 2019 RIP.