Following his death as the age of 82 on Sunday, his family, colleagues, peers and politicians have been reacting to the life of Ferdinand Karl Piech, who not only shaped Volkswagen Group but also had an enduring influence on the entire automotive industry.
The head of the Porsche-Piech clan, Wolfgang Porsche, with whom Piech often clashed, said in a statement: "We mourn with the family the loss of Ferdinand K. Piech, the extraordinary manager and engineer, the strategist and simply the car-enthusiast. My cousin and I shared many memories. At the center stage was the struggle for the legacy of our grandfather Ferdinand Porsche, which we have carried forward successfully."
In the same statement the Piech family head, Hans Michel Piech, said: "The life's work of my brother goes above and beyond the companies he worked for. He shaped the German car industry more than any other. Our thoughts are with his wife Ursula and his children. We mourn with them as we mourn with the employees of the Volkswagen Group and all car-enthusiasts, whose lives Ferdinand K. Piech enriched with his passion."
Porsche CEO Oliver Blume said: "His love of cars and his constant desire to drive forward technical progress will never be forgotten. Piech was an automotive man through and through. Through strategic decisions, he laid the foundations for successful development of our company."
Piech, the grandson of design engineer Ferdinand Porsche, began his professional career in Porsche's engine testing department. He became head of the testing department in 1966. The 911's six-cylinder boxer engine was developed to series maturity under his leadership. Piech also had the 917 race car designed in 1969, which is still today considered to be one of the most successful race cars ever.
VW Group's current CEO, Herbert Diess, cited Piech's engineering accomplishments together with the "internationalization" that he brought to the company and his achievement in establishing VW as a globally competitive commercial vehicle manufacturer.
Piech "brought quality and perfection to automotive engineering down to the last detail and anchored them deeply in Volkswagen's DNA. I look back on his life's work with gratitude and great respect," Diess said.
"The automotive industry has lost a great entrepreneur and passionate engineer who has set the highest standards for the quality, safety, efficiency and design of the automobile," Bernhard Mattes, head the German industry association (VDA), said. Piech, a former VDA vice president, played a "decisive role" in shaping the German automotive industry, Mattes said.
In the German city of Wolfsburg, VW's headquarters, Mayor Klaus Mohrs said the city owed Piech a great deal for helping to save thousands of jobs during a sales downturn by introducing a four-day week at the automaker. "He combined economic skill with a pronounced sense of responsibility for our region," Mohrs said.
VW Supervisory Board Chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch said Piech had "written automotive history as a passionate manager, ingenious engineer and visionary entrepreneur." He said the automaker and its employees owed the former CEO "a great deal," adding, "we bow our heads with respect for his life's work."
In a 2012 note to investors, Max Warburton, an analyst at Bernstein Research, said Piech's stewardship of VW was "indisputably" successful. "Piech will go down in history as an automotive legend, in the same class as Gottlieb Daimler, Henry Ford and Kiichiro Toyoda," Warburton wrote.
Automobilwoche, Reuters and Bloomberg contributed to this report