Ingolstadt Intrigue: Who’s Going to Run Audi?

Dieselgate fallout leaves leadership void

Audi’s board of directors is virtually isolated after VW Group decided to clean house in Ingolstadt. Not long after former Volvo exec Peter Mertens had been hired as new R&D chief, VW Group’s supervisory board fired four of his colleagues—HR chief Thomas Sigi, sales and marketing head Dietmar Voggenreiter, finance chief Axel Strotbek, and production boss Hubert Waltl.

Ironically, Audi chairman Rupert Stadler remains in charge of the brand responsible for the V-6 element of Dieselgate. Why? Because it makes no sense to sack the captain together with the sailors, as the current circumstances mean suitable replacements are hard to find—and because there not all the facts, accusations, and allegations are yet on the table. To protect the next Audi chief from any lingering effects of the diesel disaster, Stadler will likely have to take the flak until next spring.

The big question is who could replace him. Ideally, the candidate would come from within VW Group, but he or she would have to be untainted by any wrongdoings. Oliver Blume wants to remain at the helm of Porsche, where additional duties will crop up as soon as Audi moves under Porsche’s control, as is rumored in Wolfsburg. Luca de Meo, president of Seat, and his sales and marketing officer Wayne Griffiths, have also decided to stay where they are.

Bernd Osterloh, the powerful chief shop steward of the VW brand, is said to support the former Opel CEO Karl-Thomas Neumann, currently a jobless Volkswagen veteran. Also said to be in the running is previous Skoda chief Winfried Vahland. Perhaps Wolfgang Bernhard of Mercedes fame can be tempted, or Herbert Diess who did not make it to the top spot at BMW.

Time will tell.

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