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Volkswagen has long been known for its engineering prowess and attention to detail. So it may be a surprise that the company used the exact tire size, 195/65R15, on nearly every car it produced for years. However, this decision was not made by accident or oversight but rather a deliberate and carefully considered choice. This tire size was used for several factors, including cost, performance, and the desire for consistency across the company’s product line. As with most Volkswagen stories, this one starts with Ferdinand Piech.

Why does Volkswagen use 195/65r15 tires?

2001 Volkswagen Golf Green
2001 Volkswagen Golf | Getty Images

During Ferdinand Piech’s time at Audi and then Volkswagen, he cornered the market on the specific tire size. Starting with the 1991 Audi 100, under Piech’s guidance as technical director, the brand began using 195/70/15 tires to compete with Mercedes and BMW. The purpose of this tire size is that they are narrow enough to decrease drag but wide enough for good vehicle driving dynamics. Using these tires on the Audi 100 meant that the brand had more need for these tires than other automakers.

When negotiating with suppliers, those with more demand get first dibs. Since Audi had a more significant number of vehicles that needed these tires, it was able to get them at a lower cost. After all the negotiations, Audi could get the 15-inch wheels and tires for 15% cheaper than the 14-inch sizes used previously.

What Audi and Volkswagen use 15-inch tires?

1991 Audi 5000 black and white
1991 Audi 5000 | Getty Images

After negotiating with suppliers, every Audi besides the A8 and some sport versions used the 195/70R15. Once Ferdinand became CEO of Volkswagen in 1993, he used the same tire strategy to improve cars and save money. The brand decreased the sidewall to enhance responsiveness and began using 195/65R15 tires. Once the switch was made, Volkswagen uses these tires to this day on the 2019 Volkswagen Golf. So while you may be hard-pressed to find 15-inch wheels on new cars, they are still on most VW vehicles of the last three decades.

Who is Ferdinand Piech?

Ferdinand Piech in 2001
Ferdinand Piech | Getty Images

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Ferdinand Piech was a prominent figure in the automotive industry, serving as the chairman of the Volkswagen Group from 1993 to 2002. Piech was born in Austria in 1937 to a family with a rich automotive history. He went on to study engineering and earn a Ph.D. in the field. Piech began his career at Porsche, where he was crucial in developing the Porsche 917 race car. The 917 became one of the most successful racing cars in history. After a brief stint at Audi, Piech joined Volkswagen in 1993 and quickly transformed the company.

Under his leadership, Volkswagen acquired several other car brands, including Bentley, Bugatti, and Lamborghini. He also introduced successful new models, such as the Volkswagen Golf and the Audi A8. Despite his many accomplishments, Piech was a controversial figure. He was known for his demanding leadership style and occasionally rough relationships with his colleagues. Piech, unfortunately, passed away in 2019 at the age of 82. Volkswagen Auto Group released a tribute to his lifetime achievement at the brand.

What does 195 65 mean on a tire?

Each number on a tire indicates a dimension of the tire. The first number is measured in millimeters and dictates how wide the tire is. Secondly, the middle number represents the percentage of the first number. The percentage is how “tall” the tire is or the length of the sidewall. Lastly, the final number represents the diameter of the inside. This diameter is how you find the right tire for the size of the wheels on the vehicle. If you are after a used set of 195/65R15 tires, look no further than most Volkswagens over the last 30 years.