Porsche may be Volkswagen’s new No. 1 shareholder, but VW’s new top management lineup makes it looks more like a putsch by VW’s premium unit Audi. Former Audi CEO Martin Winterkorn now has the corner office at VW’s headquarters in Wolfsburg. And he hasn’t wasted any time peppering the ranks of top management with his men. Jochem Heizmann, former head of production at Audi will be head of production at VW. Audi Development Chief Ulrich Hackenberg, author of that hot new Audi R7 supersports car, is now head of Development at VW. Former Audi Chief Designer Walter Maria de Silva, the Italian superstar who has juiced Audi’s sales with more emotional styling, is now in charge of giving “The People’s Car” a new look. And don’t forget Horst Neumann, VW’s new head of personnel, who also hailed from Audi.
VW Chairman Ferdinand Piech (former CEO at Audi), brought Neumann to VW last year as head of personnel (against the wishes of the supervisory board) to clear the way for the whole Audi team, according to one executive close to the top ranks at VW. And that effort is far from over.
What does the high concentration of “Audianer,” as they are called in German, mean for Volkswagen? Probably a more effective and consistent management. Winterkorn and his close-knit team have powered Audi into a global premium car powerhouse with cars that regularly challenge the larger BMW and Mercedes for “best in class” rankings. The question is, who’s going to run Audi now?