Volkswagen has been on a business-building tear for some time now, but the July 4th acquisition of the part of Porsche that the company didn't own will likely be considered the crowning achievement for the leader of what has become the world's most ambitious automaker.
Ferdinand Piech is the grandson of Porsche founder Ferdinand Porsche. So when the 75-year-old chairman of Volkswagen AG agreed to buy the rest of Porsche SE's automaking business for 4.46 billion euros this week, it marked a fitting cap to Piech's two-decade effort to put VW atop the pinnacle of the global automotive business.
"Porsche and Volkswagen belong together," Martin Winterkorn, VW's CEO, said at a press conference on Thursday at Volkswagen headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany, according to Automotive News Europe. "By working with one another we will raise the company to a new level. We are on the way to being number one."
Indeed. Volkswagen last year passed Toyota as the world's second-largest carmaker, and Piech has set his sights on passing General Motors as the biggest by 2018.
And while capturing Porsche won't contribute significantly to VW's worldwide sales volume per se, putting the sports-car legend into VW's fold finally gives the parent company a flagship brand nonpareil. VW now owns 12 nameplates ranging from cheap cars to heavy trucks to the VW mainstream marque to a resurgent Audi.
Even though the Porsche gambit is the one grabbing global headlines right now, more important to Piech's ambitions may be what has been unfolding with VW's brands in the U.S. market.
Toyota and Honda are resurgent in the American market after last year's supply-chain debacles; but when June auto sales for the U.S. were reported this week, Volkswagen's 34-percent gain was the highest among major auto brands after those companies' June increases.
And while Mercedes-Benz and BMW continue to fight things out for sales-volume leadership in America, it was actually VW's Audi brand — with a 26-percent increase — that far outpaced its German rivals on the basis of relative sales gains in June.
Piech is likely to stop VW's acquisitiveness for the time being, in part because there aren't any more obvious deals available and also because the ballooning company simply needs time to digest everything that is on its plate now.
"The more brands they acquire," Stefan Bauknecht, a Frankfurt-based fund manager for Duetsche Bank, told the publication, "the more hard work there is to manage them all."