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If you don’t know the name Ferdinand Karl Piëch, and you’re a Volkswagen fan, you should. Especially if you live here in the States. Faced with a brand that wasn’t making any financial sense in this market in the late 90s, Piëch is the man that green lighted the New Beetle, a car that some argue is the sole reason Volkswagens are still sold in the US today.
On a grander scale, Piëch is also the reason Bentley, Bugatti, and Lamborghini are in the fold of Volkswagen-owned brands, and are poised and openly going after Toyota for the number one car manufacturer in the world. It is his vision, and love of fast cars, as well as his seat on the Porsche board, that focused these decisions into bringing Volkswagen as a whole upmarket.
He is also the man behind so many technologies that puts Volkswagen, and its other brands, on the map. Quattro four-wheel-drive technology, the TDI engine, lightweight aluminum-spaceframe architecture, and the DSG gearbox were all created under his watchful eye. With the engineering prowess to develop such technologies, he also has the incredible insight on how to pair them down, and share them across the ever-expanding tree of brands Volkswagen AG controls, keeping research and development costs down considerably.
It is because of all this that Automobile Magazine named Piëch the 2011 Man of the Year. Piëch is certainly no stranger to receiving awards, having previously been named Car Executive of the Century (then century in which the car was mainly developed, mind you) in 1999, but he is certainly deserving of such recognition. And over the past year, with the bringing of Porsche into the VAG family, he certainly had his work cut out for him, but as always he took it in stride. Some say he is the greatest executive of all time, even more so than his grandfather which bore the other surname that starts with “P”, Ferdinand Porsche. Some think he has a little more work to do in order to take such a crown. One thing that we’re sure of is that he has some more tricks up his sleeve. And as Volkswagen fans, we should all pay very close attention.
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