Almost everyone has a Ferdinand Piëch story. Story multiplied by story becomes legend. Like all legends, Piëch's has a strong vein of truth in it - and an equally strong vein of nonsense. Here are some facts about the great man - who retired last week as Volkswagen's chairman - and some of our favorite stories from his long career.
Piëch tested limits of executive team
A fast and excellent driver on any surface, Ferdinand Piëch ordered Volkswagen's top management to accompany him on grueling test drives of new vehicles. He held at least four of them a year - on and off road, on proving grounds, in the desert, on ice, in mountains and on speed circuits.
During the tests, proximity to the boss signaled the current hierarchy. Whoever had Piëch's favor was ordered to join his car, or follow closely. The further back one was, the worse was the executive's standing. Also, whoever could not keep up lost points with Piëch.
The entourage was accompanied by VW factory doctors, who had to follow the high-speed group in a fully-packed car that could be used as an emergency room.
The doctors' biggest worry was not an accident, it was that VW's top executives would suffer heart attacks, physical collapses or dehydration. Piëch pressed on with little regard for rest or even sanitary stops. He'd often go all day without even a lunch break.