Audi CEO rumoured to be taking over technical development

Audi CEO Gernot Döllner is also to take over the Volkswagen brand's Development department. According to a media report, however, the current Chief Development Officer Oliver Hoffmann will remain with the brand - albeit in a different role.

Image: Audi

As the German Handelsblatt newspaper claims to have learnt from Volkswagen Group circles, Audi Board Member for Development Oliver Hoffmann will hand over his position to brand boss Gernot Döllner and will be responsible for the Ingolstadt-based company’s Formula 1 commitment in future. Audi intends to enter Formula 1 with the new hybrid engine regulations from 2026 and has already been working on the engine at the motorsport development centre in Neuburg for some time – the vehicle is to come from the Sauber team, which will be gradually taken over by Audi by 2026.

According to the report, the Supervisory Board is to decide on the change in the Audi Board of Management in the near future. Döllner, who joined Audi from Wolfsburg, has been Chairman of the Board of Management in Ingolstadt since 1 September 2023. Initially, the confidant of VW Group CEO Oliver Blume looked at and analysed the situation at Audi. Since this year, he has been pushing through his ‘Audi Agenda’ with changes to the organisation and also to management personnel – most recently, Audi’s Chief Designer Marc Lichte was also replaced.

So far, there has been no talk of new appointments to the Board of Management. At the beginning of February, when the first changes in top management became known, the German publication Automobilwoche wrote that Döllner had no “immediate need for action” on the Audi Board of Management. Renate Vachenauer, Board Member for Procurement, was not appointed until April 2023, while Xavier Ros (Human Resources) has held his post for eleven months longer, since May 2022. Other contracts are still running; Hildegard Wortmann, Board Member for Sales, is tied to the Ingolstadt-based company until 2026.

Hoffmann has been member of the Board since 2021

Nevertheless, the Audi Supervisory Board could decide on a change or at least discuss the personnel issue at its meeting next Thursday. As Automobilwoche writes in a recent article, the long-standing Audi developer Hoffmann is still recognised in Technical Development (TE), but parts of the management from other areas blame the Board Member for Development for the “years-long model gap” – the drive developer Hoffmann has been on the Audi Board of Management since 2021.

The Handelsblatt also writes that there are rumours among Audi managers that Döllner “considers himself the better head of development”. One indication that the Audi boss does not fully trust the promised schedules of his development team can be seen in his decision on the latest model launches. Döllner has not only decided to postpone the important Q6 e-tron electric model once again (which means that Porsche has presented the first PPE model, the Macan, not Audi), but has also decelerated the model offensive announced for 2024. Instead of several important premieres within a short space of time, Döllner wants orderly model launches with a little more distance between them.

The fact that the CEO is also active as CTO would not be a first at Audi: Döllner’s predecessor Markus Duesmann – who incidentally also has a long Formula 1 past at BMW – also took over the management of TE for several months after starting in Ingolstadt before handing over to Hoffmann in March 2021. A juicy detail: Hoffmann’s contract was only extended until 2026 in May 2023 (still under Duesmann, like Hoffmann one of the big supporters of the Formula 1 project at Audi). Döllner is not a fan of the expensive motorsport project, and there were even rumours that he might stop the decision to get involved. Although it has not come to that, a switch to the Formula 1 project would still be a face-saving departure for Hoffmann.

The latest reports make it clear once again that Döllner has a rather confrontational management style. “Some managers felt snubbed by his behaviour,” writes the Handelsblatt, for example. Döllner is pushing for rapid change. But even his predecessor Duesmann was rumoured to have failed to connect with his people with his style – including at TE. Regardless of the management style, for TE at Audi it is another change of the responsible board member. In the development department plagued by the emissions scandal, Döllner would be the eighth head since 2012. (both in German)


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