There are few auto executives anywhere in the world who have had more impact than Piech. And like his grandfather, Ferdinand Porsche, he will go down as one of the greatest automotive engineers of all time. Despite his difficult personality he has always been able to impress corporate boards, shareholders and, most importantly, employees who have been loyal and even devoted to him. There has been no one quite like him.
I remember the first time I met Piech. He had already exited Porsche AG, where he started his career. His uncle, Ferry Porsche, had ordered all the family members out of the sports car company because of their squabbling and had turned Porsche over to Ernst Furhmann to run.
Piech had moved on to become head of engineering at Audi in the late 1970s and once during lunch at Audi's headquarters in Ingolstadt I asked him how far we were from the East German border. He answered: "Oh, I expect we are about five hours from the border by Russian tank. If they leave at midnight, they'll be here by morning."
He had little or no use for the press, automotive or otherwise, but he always had that wry, very dry sense of humor.