top of page

Portrait: the Porsche and Piëch families - Part 1/3

We cannot dissociate our two families by their links and histories which are strongly linked. It is therefore the story of families sealed by blood but divided by the power of business and therefore the story of the Porsche and Volkswagen companies.

The story begins with the better known of the two families; Ferdinand Porsche.

Born in 1875 in the current Böhmen Republic of Thèque, he was an engineer, inventor and introduced to the world of mechanical sports, particularly in the 1930s. Passionate about electricity in his childhood, he was hired in his youth by the imperial coach manufacture Jakob Lohner & Co (Hofwagenfabrik), she is the manufacturer of cars for the emperor of Austria and the kings of Norway, Sweden and Romania, which in 1898 opened an electric motor production section. In 1900, during the Universal Exhibition in Paris, he surprised the world by presenting a vehicle which was intended to be the precursor of the famous wheel motor which can travel no less than 50 miles (80 km) on a load with 4 people on board. Over the years, Porsche improved its car and installed an electric motor on each wheel (thus creating the first all-wheel drive car in history!) And even added a small gasoline engine that powers a generator which, itself, operates the wheel motors. Its name, '' the always happy '' a snub to its all-electric competitor, which was the first vehicle to pass the 100km-h mark in 1899 and which is called the '' never content '', because the Always happy was also destined for motor racing, but the weight of the batteries slowed her down enormously on the hills. pounds (450 kg) only for batteries! Over the years, Porsche improved its car and installed an electric motor on each wheel (thus creating the first all-wheel drive car in history!) And even added a small gasoline engine that powers a generator which, itself, operates the wheel motors. Today we call it a hybrid. Despite reliable mechanics, the excessively high production costs compared to gasoline engines got the better of the Lohner-Porsche in 1906.

`` The always happy '' - Lohner-Porschev 1900- 1901

It marked his departure in the vehicle industry as a designer. He then moved to Austro-Daimler and Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft respectively, where the companies manufactured vehicles for the German army during the First World War. After the 14-18 war, Ferdinand set out to design racing cars which won the majority of races. In 1926, Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft and Benz & Cie merged into Daimler-Benz, producing the first models under the name Mercedes-Benz. He participates in the development of S, SS and SSK engines and where he develops heavy goods vehicles, aircraft engines, etc. His research is expensive and is often accountable to his employers. He then proposed a concept of a small car, the board of directors of Daimler-Benz did not like the idea. He thus left Mercedes-Benz in 1929 to go to Steyr, but the Great Depression brought Steyr into bankruptcy and Porsche ended up being unemployed. In 1931 he founded his own company, “Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung, Konstruktion und Beratung für Motoren- und Fahrzeugbau ”(“ Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche limited liability company, study and consultancy in the construction of engines and vehicles ”). He was the inventor of the torsion bar and his engines won victory after victory, and this is where the story divides into two versions:

- the official version which mentions that Hitler fascinated by the exploits of Ferdinand Porsche's engines, asks him in February 1933, just a month after his accession to power, to take charge of his democratic car project, the object of propaganda, and those, following a call for tenders notice for a people's car with precise technical criteria: the car must transport two adults and 3 children (i.e. an average family) at 60 mph (96 km-h) and consume less 33 miles per gallon (8 liters per 100 kilometers) for a price of less than 1,000 marks, the price of a motorcycle of the time,

- and the version of researchers in history who say that it is Ferdinand Porsche himself who blew the idea of ​​such a vehicle, especially that the idea of ​​such a concept comes neither to one nor to the other but of the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, who in 1930 had summoned the senator of the Kingdom of Italy, Giovanni Agnelli, founder of FIAT, to inform him of the "urgent need" to motorize the Italians with an economical car whose price was not to exceed 5,000 lire. However, it was not until 1936 that the Fiat 500 Topolino left the factory in Italy and France after long periods and a price increased to 8,900 lire.

`` The never happy '' 1899

If the first version goes more in the direction of logic, I am in favor of the second version, especially according to the rest of the story where it is divided. You just have to keep in mind that history is made by men and is written by historians, so the official versions are often rounded on the angles to make it appear smoother but that the reality of the facts is often obscured. Also remember that it was just a month after his accession that Hitler asked Porsche to take the project and that also after the tender process, so do you really think that Hitler didn't have to? 'other things to do before, such as the outbreak of a world war for example, while for Porsche the very idea of ​​the small car had been anchored in his thoughts for years, since as we tell you he had even proposed to Mercedes-Benz the project which was refused and which Porsche could not develop since that time confined to the designs of large engines.

Thus, the project that everyone knows and which is that of the mythical Beetle and which we call the Coccinelle in its French language version is disturbing. Indeed, and this is also why I am in favor of version two, is that Ferdinant Porsche was set by deadlines which could not be mastered, he was caught in a trap with Hilter and we do not play with Hilter. In addition, Hitler is busy developing the German motorway system, with the deployment of large Autobahnen across the country. The objective is to facilitate communications between the various cities, but also to allow aviation to take off or land on the highways. The image of a strong Germany with empty highways since it does not yet hesitate to drive the people.

The Porsche office finds itself shoved on two fronts, with this technically binding project and another commitment which was the development of Auto-Union competition cars and its V16 engines that the regime also finance for the image. of Reich through his victories in the eyes of the world.

Porsche is a family business and Ferninand has two children, a daughter Louise who is the eldest and a boy Ferdinand Anton Ernst Porsche, known as the Porsche Ferry.

Louise Porsche in 1909

Porsche ferry in 1920

The two children have an opposite character, Louise is domineering while Ferry is reserved, these are traits that will have their importance in the rest of the story. Ferry is on the Ladybug project with his father while Louise gets married in 1928 with the lawyer Dr Anton Piëch, it is from there that the fate of the two families is sealed.

... Part 2


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page