Producer
Director
Manfred Oldenburg, Annebeth Jacobson
Producer
16:9 HDTV
Genre
Biographies
Broadcaster
ZDF
Length
1 x 45'
Editor
Year
2017
Germany’s Great Clans
The Volkswagen-Story

The figures speak for themselves: every seventh job in Germany is directly or indirectly dependent on the automotive industry; without it, our national economy would be a different one. Full employment, just ten years after the Second World War, would have been almost inconceivable without the boom in this industry. And the Volkswagen Group forms the centre of this key industry, even today: around 600,000 employees, 200 billion euros in turnover and 120 factories. VW is the largest car manufacturer in the world.

Since then, the VW emblem has been regarded as a symbol of Germany as a business location, as a seal of quality "Made in Germany". This is now being challenged by the emissions scandal. Thus, the families that have determined the course of the company for decades, the Porsches and the Piëchs, are also coming into focus. The question of who calls the shots at the core brand of the German automotive industry has always been an issue of national importance. VW is also a kind of mirror image of German history since the last century.

With the invention of the VW Beetle in the 1930s, family patriarch Ferdinand Porsche laid the foundation for what would later become a global corporation. In the process, he became entangled in the machinations of the Nazi regime. His closeness to Hitler and the mass use of forced labourers in the company's armaments production had consequences: almost two years in prison under the French occupation forces. Ferdinand Porsche died in 1951. Son Ferry (1909-1998) and daughter Louise (1904-1999), married Piëch, succeeded him in the company, later the Porsche grandsons Wolfgang Porsche and Ferdinand Piëch. To this day, the descendants of Beetle inventor Ferdinand Porsche have considerable decision-making power in the VW Group.

The rivalry between the "name bearers", the children of Porsche's son Ferry, and the "non-name bearers", the children of Porsche's daughter Louise Piëch, runs like a thread through the company's history. All the stops are pulled out.

Adultery, betrayal, intrigues - money, power and vanity are always at stake. In 1970, a psychologist was supposed to reconcile the quarrelling relatives, in vain. After all, Wolfgang Porsche ran the Stuttgart sports car company of the same name, Ferdinand Piëch headed Volkswagen. He had reached the top of the group via the Audi diversions. Piëch turned the somewhat dusty brand into an "engine" of the VW empire in the 1980s. The rivalry later grew into the biggest takeover battle ever to rage on the German stock market. The two companies tried to swallow each other. The Porsches lost the showdown in 2009.

Piëch triumphed - but only for a time. When rumours surfaced that he was trying to make his wife Ursula his successor at the helm of Volkswagen, he put his power in the company at risk. Cousin Wolfgang, who sits on the supervisory board, thwarted the suspected plan. The rival was deprived of power step by step.

2015 became the fateful year for the automobile giant. In September, VW came under fire for allegedly systematically falsifying emission values of diesel engines. What consequences will the scandal have for the company, the entire industry and for Germany as a business location? The authors Manfred Oldenburg and Annebeth Jacobsen look for answers, take a look back at 140 years of family and company history and talk to clan members Wolfgang Porsche and Hans Michel Piëch.

First broadcast: Tuesday, 17 October 2017, 20:15 on ZDF.

 

Germany’s Great Clans - The Volkswagen-Story

The figures speak for themselves: every seventh job in Germany is directly or indirectly dependent on the automotive industry; without it, our national economy would be a different one. Full employment, just ten years after the Second World War, would have been almost inconceivable without the boom in this industry. And the Volkswagen Group forms the centre of this key industry, even today: around 600,000 employees, 200 billion euros in turnover and 120 factories. VW is the largest car manufacturer in the world.

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