Some of today’s established European carmakers will ‘disappear’ according to VW supremo, Ferdinand Piech. Making a rare public speech in China this week, he predicted the continued shrinking of the Western European market and, seemingly, predicted the demise of more than one rival brand.
When Piech speaks, the auto industry listens. As VW powers towards being the world’s largest car maker and with the recent unveiling of the huge MQB global platform and factory project, Piech can surely claim to be something of an automotive visionary.
When he took over at the VW brand in the early 1990s, VW was failing badly. As the engineering genius behind the Porsche 917 and the man who reinvented Audi as a brand synonymous with innovation and build quality, Piech not only knocked VW into shape, he drove a policy of multiple brand names sharing the same technology.
Much mocked at the time, this multi-brand strategy, Audi’s huge success and a genuine global sales footprint show Piech - now Chairman of the VW Group Supervisory Board - to be either immensely lucky or a master strategist. So, on the rare occasion he speaks, the industry listens.
Even so, it is hard to imagine car makers failing. The last two to go were Saab and Rover, which were ejected from their parent companies and, with sales of around 125,000 units, just too small to survive. If Piech is right, we are going to the see the demise of a really large company. Of course, there are tiny brands such as Lancia or Alfa Romeo that could conceivably be thrown overboard, but it hardly seems worth Fiat’s while.