If we have learned anything about the automotive industry in the past few years, it is to expect the unexpected. At the start of last year no one could have predicted that Volkswagen Group would spend the final months of 2015 fighting to regain its credibility after cheating on emissions tests. What will be the big surprises of 2016? Here are few crazy things that just might happen.
Piech resumes reign
Ferdinand Piech regains supreme control of Europe’s largest automaker, returning to his post as Volkswagen Group supervisory board chairman. The man who oversaw the massive diversification of VW Group, which today sells everything from Bugatti supercars, to Skoda budget cars, to Scania heavy trucks to Ducati motorcycles, proves to be a stabilizing force as the company corrects the problems caused by its emissions scandal.
Piech resigned last April after losing a boardroom battle with then VW CEO Martin Winterkorn, whom Piech reportedly wanted replaced by then Porsche CEO Matthias Mueller. Piech got his wish in October when Mueller succeeded Winterkorn after he resigned due to the emissions debacle.
The unexpected return of the legendary Austrian engineer, who turns 79 in April, also reassures his fans that Piech may loss the occasional battle, but he never loses a war.
The revelation in late 2015 that VW’s emission problems in Europe were far less severe than originally expected gives the automaker a big public relations boost. It uses that momentum, combined with its continued charm offensive in the U.S., to spark sales. VW Group will finish 2016 as the world’s largest automaker by sales for the first time in its history, achieving a goal that Winterkorn created and doing so two years ahead of schedule.