Carl Hahn, who headed the Volkswagen group during the German car giant's heyday in the 1980s, has died, a spokeswoman for the Carl and Marisa Hahn Foundation told AFP on Sunday.
Hahn died peacefully at his home in Wolfsburg on Saturday morning aged 96, Die Welt daily reported late Saturday.
As head of VW from 1982 to 1993, Hahn is credited with overseeing sweeping changes that helped catapult the company to international success.
The group took over Seat and Skoda under his watch and also began expanding into China -- now its most important market.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Hahn also took pains to ensure that Volkswagen expanded into East Germany and rebuilt the company's Zwickau plant, which today makes electric cars.
"With his sense for opportunities, timing and emerging markets, Hahn laid the foundations for Volkswagen's success," Die Welt said.
Hahn was born in 1926 in Chemnitz into a family of industrialists.
He studied economics in Germany, Switzerland and Britain before beginning his career with Fiat in Italy.
He first worked at Volkswagen in North America and later completed a stint at tyre company Continental in Hanover before returning to the German group as chief executive.