MARCH 3, 2008
Porsche retakes control of Volkswagen
Ferdinand Porsche was one of the great automobile designers of the 20th century. He designed the highly-successful Mercedes S, SS and SSK sports cars in the 1920s and helped create the powerhouse that is Mercedes-Benz. He then followed up with the radical mid-engined Auto Union Grand Prix cars, helping to establish Germany as the leading force in Grand Prix racing in the years before the war and then, with backing from the new Chancellor of Germany Adolf Hitler, launched the prototype people's car - the Volkswagen - in 1936. This would be the basis of the VW Beetle in the post-war world and would turn the Volkswagen company into a post-war giant. By then, however, Ferdinand Porsche had been taken prisoner by the French and his family had set up a new business in Gmund, Austria, and began building streamlined versions of the pre-war VW prototypes in order to buy the release is their father. The result was the Porsche sports cars of the 1950s and 1960s which built the company into another huge enterprise. The Porsche and Piech Families have long believed that they should control the VW empire and this week finally announced that Porsche will take over a majority stake in Volkswagen.
On Monday Porsche received the go-ahead from its supervisory board to increase its stake in VW to more than 50 per cent and soon afterwards VW announced that it was buying control of Scania, the Swedish truckmaker. This means that Porsche now controls a vast automotive empire, which ranges from heavy-duty trucks to family runabouts, sporty Skodas and Seats, flashier Audis, and very flashy Bugattis and Lamborghinis, in addition to the Porsche sports cars. Porsche says the aim is to create a strong and innovative automobile alliance to challenge Toyota domination - and there is no doubt that it will also be aiming to take business away from Mercedes-Benz as well.
The effects of this move will take months to be felt but there are bound to be repercussions in the motorsport world.