VW Group and Audi supervisory boards have reportedly decided to replace Audi CEO Markus Duesmann in their meeting on Thursday.
Duesmann is set to step down on 1 September, making way for his successor, Gernot Döllner, who is said to be close to Oliver Blume.
German magazine Der Spiegel broke the news this afternoon. Audi has now confirmed the leadership change.
Audi does not give a reason for the short-term dismissal of Duesmann after about three years in Ingolstadt – possibly Chairman of Audi’s Supervisory Board, Manfred Döss’ statement about the future CEO is an indication: “Gernot Döllner is now the right person to further sharpen the product strategy and the positioning in the important markets for Audi”.
Markus Duesmann took on the role at Audi as the successor to the recently convicted Rupert Stadler. He was tasked with resolving the diesel scandal and strengthening the technical development at Audi.
His predecessors had lagged behind in the shift to e-mobility, and in the announcement, Audi thanked Duesmann for the efforts towards electrification.
Duesmann initiated for Audi to launch more than 20 new models and model revisions by 2025, more than ten of which will be electric. “This will be the biggest model offensive in the company’s history,” he said.
However, the Audi boss beheld in March this year that the carmaker wasn’t ready to say goodbye to the combustion engine.
According to Audi, the “best combustion engine models are still to come”, and the company is working on a new ICE platform.
“From 2024, we will also launch a specific combustion engine platform for our last generation of new combustion engines in parallel with the new electric models,” said Duesmann.
From 2026, Audi won’t release any new ICE models anymore an aims to manage a full transition in the 2030ies.
Still, the supervisors may have missed a clear focus in the transformation of the model series from the combustion world to electric mobility – the delays in the important PPE platform developed with Porsche are more likely to be blamed on the group’s software division Cariad.
And in the important Chinese market, Audi has recently failed to meet its own targets, and in the USA it is also lagging behind its German premium competitors.
Duesmann had recognised these problem areas and had both personally taken over the management of the China business and strongly advocated Audi’s own US plant. Mercedes and BMW have been producing mainly SUV models in Alabama and South Carolina since the 1990s, while Audi only has a poorly utilised plant in Mexico.
Duesmann will now not get the time to fix these problems.
Gernot Döllner new Audi CEO
Successor Döllner previously oversaw overall strategy and the general secretariat of the VW Group. Before that, he served as the head of concept development at Porsche, until 2021, where he was responsible for the Panamera model series.
He is considered one of the closest associates of Porsche and VW Group CEO Oliver Blume. The Porsche man succeeded Herbert Diess in a surprise move in summer 2022.
While the Group called it “mutual agreement,” insiders said it was “an outright sacking” since Diess’ provocative leadership style had endangered the cohesion within the Group. The Supervisory Board considers Blume an outstanding team player.
In today’s announcement of Duesmann’s replacement, Chairman Döss thanked Duesmann “for all the important work he has done during his tenure at Audi.
He has brought great foresight and vision to planning and driving forward key strategic decisions, including, first and foremost, the electrification strategy.
Audi will be able to build further on these cornerstones in the future,” he said.
It remains to be seen what changes the new leadership will bring.
Gernot Döllner will become Audi CEO this September. He said: “I’m honored and excited to be taking on this new role. Audi is a fantastic company with a rich history. I look forward to shaping the company’s future together with the entire team at Audi.”