He was one of the best.
I remember my first meeting with Ferdinand Piech, when he was a rising star at Audi after having been booted out of Porsche along with the rest of his family.
When I asked him how far we were, at that moment, from the East German border, he said with a wry smile that I saw often during our relationship, "Oh, about five hours by Russian tank." If they left now, he told me, they would be here by breakfast. For me, he always had a very dry sense of humor — but boy was he smart.
The world lost one of the very few great product planners when Piech died on Sunday, Aug. 25, at 82. He was a part of the Porsche family and had long ago made his mark as an engineer. He ended up as chairman of Volkswagen for many years through some of the most turbulent times at Europe's largest automaker.
But for all of his foibles, he simply was a great engineer. He did not suffer fools lightly, ever.