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Tell Tale: The car industry’s great dynasties

3 years ago

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Ben Oliver | Journalist


28 June 2021

It seems odd to run a modern multinational car company the same way as a long-established high-street butcher, or England before the Glorious Revolution of 1688. But a surprising number of car makers are still family businesses, with power handed down on the hereditary principle from the original founder, in some cases over five generations.

Some of these automotive dynasties are well-known: there are Fords and Toyodas in senior positions at Ford and Toyota, and the internecine battles among the Porsches and Piëchs for control of Porsche and Volkswagen drew more attention than these families would probably have enjoyed.

Others are less obvious. Two of the oldest car manufacturing clans – the Peugeots and the Agnellis, formerly of Fiat – now control Stellantis, though it’s a shame they couldn’t use their combined 253 years in this business to come up with a decent name for their newly merged company. Nearly half of BMW is still owned by Herbert Quandt’s two children, making them precisely as rich as you’d expect.

In Korea, the third generation of the Chung dynasty is about to take control of Hyundai Motor, and this month the 91-year-old Osamu Suzuki (who isn’t actually a Suzuki by birth, but was married into the family as a promising young banker and given its surname) is finally retiring and handing power to his son after running the business since the seventies.

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