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It never fails that comments made by Volkswagen Group Chairman Ferdinand Piech tend to be dissected to a level nearly unparalleled in the auto industry. Piech is the grandson of Ferdinand Porsche and the main man behind notable happenings as Audi’s move to quattro and the Porsche 917. He’s been the main catalyst for the surprising agility of the gargantuan Volkswagen Group for many years and often the final decision in many moves by the company. So, when Piech mentions the possibility of adding brands, the press gets awfully interested.
This latest quote comes from an interview with the German monthly magazine ADAC Motorwelt. Piech mentions in the chat that his children 10 years from now will drive one of the car manufacturer’s “at least 13 brands”. By last count the Volkswagen Group (including Audi, Lamborghini and Ducati) was at 12.
So what brand could Piech have in mind when he makes such claims? VW’s chairman has mentioned Alfa Romeo on numerous occasions and is quoted as appreciating its “cult” status. Still, the brand is currently owned by Fiat SpA whose CEO Sergio Marchionne reiterated as recently as last week that the brand is not for sale.
Another theory at thedetroitbureau.com focuses more on Asia. No one can deny the growth in China and the Chinese government has been pressuring car makers to launch domestic Chinese brands. Companies like GM and Nissan have already made such moves, though the Volkswagen Group has made no such move thus far.
That same theory also sites Proton for its presence in Southeast Asia and also its current ownership of the ailing yet storied Lotus brand. This is an interesting theory as well, though rumors back in 2012 suggest Volkswagen already looked at Lotus and decided not to make the move.
On paper Asia makes a lot of sense, though watching Volkswagen’s record might suggest otherwise. The company made a failed move to invest in Suzuki and that could have left a bad taste in their mouth. Daimler’s own problems in trying to manage a multi-continent union with Chrysler may have also been a consideration, as Volkswagen could have likely stepped in and snapped up the Chrysler portfolio before Fiat was able to do so. Given all this, it is quite possible that Volkswagen has elected to adopt a Euro-centric philosophy. All twelve of its marques hail from Europe.
Going with the Euro theme (and also Fiat), we’ve made our case for the company to focus more on Fiat’s ailing yet still cool Lancia brand whose penchant for engineering, design and motorsport would make it a seemingly perfect fit as a starter brand within the Audi side of the Volkswagen group. Still, even this seems unlikely given the lack of love lost between Marchionne and Piech.
Another way to look at this might be to examine the Volkswagen Group business model of maximizing economies of scale and then applying it to the current portfolio. There are now two commercial truck brands, and now a number of car brands spanning the range of customer pricing needs. Then, there’s Ducati – the sole motorcycle manufacturer in the mix. To help raise economies of scale in motorcycle manufacturing, maybe Volkswagen might look toward growing its two-wheel portfolio.
Now, apply Piech’s love for icons, the Euro-centric nature of the portfolio and the group’s economies of scale production strategy and that offers up an interesting list of potential acquisitions.
The marque that sticks out in our head most (and this is just a guess) would be Vespa. All that said, Vespa is part of the Piaggio Group that owns a mix of reknowned brands like Aprilia and Moto Guzzi, along with lesser-knowns like Derbi, Gilera and Scarabeo. They’ve also got a commercial division.
So, in the end this is all guesswork. What marques do you think Piech is targeting when he makes such comments? We’d be interested in hearing your opinion and have made a post in our general automotive Car Lounge forum for further discussion on the subject.