APRIL 16, 2002
The changeover at Volkswagen
TOMORROW (Wednesday) marks the end of Ferdinand Piech's term as chief executive of Volkswagen AG. Piech, the grandson of the firm's founder Ferdinand Porsche (who also established the Porsche company), has run the company with considerable success for the last nine years.
Piech will be replaced by former BMW chief executive Bernd Pischetsrieder. Piech started his career as a racing engineer with Porsche before moving on to head Audi and ultimately to take over the while VW empire. The firm has steered clear of Formula 1 throughout his tenure despite his racing roots although Audi has enjoyed considerable success in a variety of different series, notably the World Rally Championship (at his instigation) and more recently in sports car racing.
Pischetsrieder is much more of an F1 fan but says that he will not be taking Europe's biggest car company into Grand Prix racing - at least not in the short term. He joined BMW in 1973 as a production engineer and so saw at first hand the value of the company's involvement in F1 in the early 1980s. He became chief executive in 1993 but a major falling out with rival Wolfgang Reitzle, now running the Premier Automotive Group at Ford and a major player in the Jaguar Racing F1 program, over the Rover group saw them both dumped by BMW in 1999.
Pischetsrieder has already announced his plans to create different images for the VW brands and sport will play a role in this although it is yet to seen exactly what will happen.
Whatever ultimately happens, however, the change marks a major change in the automotive world and one which could be significant for the sport in the course of the next 10 years.
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