Born on September 3, 1875, in the Kingdom of Bohemia in Maffersdorf, Ferdinand Porsche was an Austrian engineer, biker and designer, he acquired German citizenship. The gifted developed a very early passion for inventions that reinvented society at the end of the 19th century.
The first prototypes of airplanes or automobiles stood shoulder to shoulder with the later generalization of electricity, in the midst of the industrial revolution.
When his father, Anton Porsche, saw him take over his small plumbing workshop, he was assured of his son’s genius, allowing him to go to Vienna to try his luck.
Inventor of the first electric car
At the age of 18 he started his career as a chief engineer for an Austrian electrical company. It was here that he developed the electric motor wheel concept. The motor is then integrated directly into the hub. His hunger for learning drives him to take classes secretly at the University of Vienna, as he can’t afford to pay for enrollment.
In 1898, the first electric car prototype was ready. Egger-Lohner C2 Phaeton P1 develops 3 hp at 35 km/h.
In 1900 his car became one of the stars of the Universal Exhibition in Paris, where it was presented as a rival to “I’m Not Satisfied”, then the fastest car in the world.
The following year, the first gasoline-electric hybrid car popped into his mind.
From Daimler-Mercedes-Benz to Porsche
After replacing Paul Daimler as Daimler’s CEO in Stuttgart in 1923, he founded the Daimler-Mercedes-Benz company we still know today. However, after a disagreement with the board of directors in 1929, he left the company and took a decision.
After finishing working for others, he set up his own Porsche design office in Stuttgart with his son. Customers are numerous, from Auto Union to Mercedes-Benz, which will become Audi through more personalized creations.
But it was another notorious client that led him to design one of the best-selling cars in history.
Nazi car Volkswagen
In 1933, Ferdinand Porsche responded to Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler’s initial calls for tenders. The two know each other well and their common goal is to democratize the automobile in Germany.
Hitler, a great lover of the businessman, designed a people’s car (“Volkswagen” in German) that could carry four people, consume less than 8 percent liters, travel at 100 km/h and cost less than 1000 Reichsmarks.
The task is clear: to make this car, a propaganda tool for the Nazi regime, accessible to all Germans. The “KdF”-Wagen for “Kraft durch freude” (“strength through joy”) was presented by Porsche to Hitler in 1938, the year the Volkswagen plant in Wolfsburg was founded.
He actively participates in the Nazi war machine.
In 1937 Ferdinand Porsche, like many German industrialists, joined the Nazi party and enjoyed numerous state contracts. As Germany prepares for war, Porsche will come closer to power by being appointed coordinator of the industrial war effort by Adolf Hitler.
Aircraft engines, ammunition, weapons, military vehicles are under his control.
When France was occupied, he was responsible for controlling the industrial cooperation of the Peugeot factory in Sochaux. It will expel the workers and eight rulers, and blame Hitler himself for his “bad intentions, acts of resistance and sabotage.”
At the end of the war, the SS-ranking NSDAP member was in the spotlight of France for, among other things, using as labor the deportees from the concentration camps. On December 15, 1945, the trap was set.
The French authorities invite Ferdinand Porsche and his son Ferdinand Anton Ernst Porsche to visit the French Renault factories to get an opinion on the prototypes of the Renault 4CV. He was arrested at the scene and spent twenty months in prison.
Released in 1947, he fell into depression.
Four years later, while discovering a car designed by his son in his name, he gets emotional and dies of a heart attack. Ferdinand Porsche will not witness the incredible success of his brand.