Ralf Brandstätter rumoured to take over VW in China


According to a media report, VW brand manager Ralf Brandstätter is to become the Volkswagen group’s new board member for China, replacing group CEO Herbert Diess in this post. Brandstätter would thus still join the group’s board of management, albeit in a different capacity than previously suspected.

According to the Handelsblatt, this was confirmed in company circles on Tuesday evening. The personnel change was triggered by Volkswagen’s ongoing problems in China due to supply difficulties with semiconductors. VW’s electric car sales in China are also lagging behind expectations. Until now, Herbert Diess was responsible for China at the group level, while at the level of the VW brand there is also a China department, which is headed by Stephan Wöllenstein.

At the beginning of the week, there were reports that Brandstätter, in his function as VW brand manager, was to join the group’s board of management and take over further operational tasks from Diess. While there were already reports at the beginning of the week that Diess would like to entrust the up-and-coming Brandstätter in Wolfsburg with the difficult task in China, according to the Handelsblatt the current proposal was brought to Brandstätter from within the supervisory board. According to a manager involved, Volkswagen needs a really experienced board member in China who is capable of getting to grips with the problems in the People’s Republic. The loyal Brandstätter, who has spent his entire working life in the VW group, would “not say no then”.

Accordingly, Brandstätter is to move to Beijing and supervise and restructure the business from there. In addition to the aforementioned production problems due to the semiconductor crisis, which affects VW more than Chinese manufacturers, there are other challenges: Volkswagen’s current electric vehicle models in China are based on the MEB and thus not only draw on the familiar drive technology, but also the electronics architecture and infotainment.

Brandstätter’s successor as VW brand manager is reported to be the former Skoda boss Thomas Schäfer. Hildegard Wortmann, 55, previously head of sales and marketing at Audi, is to join the Volkswagen board of management. The post will be newly created; up to now, Group boss Diess has held the sales portfolio.

It is precisely in this regard, that Volkswagen is apparently less and less able to meet the expectations of Chinese customers, as recently also reported by Auto, Motor und Sport. In view of the large touchscreens, the high degree of networking and personal assistants in the car, Chinese customers’ expectations of a car’s digital equipment are high. Models from Xpeng, Nio or GAC Aion can offer this – VW lacks the unique selling proposition here, according to the report.

According to the Handelsblatt, Diess, who had been in charge of China up to now, had not been able to perform his duties as usual because of the Corona crisis – the entry regulations for China provide for a long quarantine. This is another reason why Brandstätter should work from China. Volkswagen did not comment on the information to the business newspaper.

While the appointment of Ralf Brandstätter as the Volkswagen Group’s new China boss has not yet been officially confirmed, Audi has announced that Jürgen Unser will take over the management of the brand’s operational business in China as president of Audi China from 1 January 2022. In this role, he succeeds Werner Eichhorn, who is retiring.

Unser is a mechanical engineer and has been with the Group since 2004. He also has experience in China: Unser has been a member of the board at FAW-Volkswagen since 2013, where he is Technical Vice President for R&D, Product Management and Production. (in German, Brandstätter), (in German, digital components), (personnel at Audi), (in German, Schäfer)


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