BMW executive Markus Duesmann tasked with reviving Audi

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Volkswagen VOWG_p.DE on Friday installed former BMW BMWG.DE executive Markus Duesmann to reinvent Audi NSUG.DE after the German premium brand lost key engineering know-how and influence in the wake of the 2015 diesel-cheating scandal.

Markus Duesmann, board member of German luxury carmaker BMW attends the company's annual news conference in Munich, Germany, March 21, 2018. REUTERS/Michael Dalder

Duesmann will become chief executive of Audi as well as take on board level responsibility for research and development at Volkswagen Group on April 1 next year, the Wolfsburg-based multi-brand group said on Friday.

Duesmann’s job will include injecting new meaning into the company’s advertising slogan “Vorsprung Durch Technik”, or “advancement through technology”, after Audi fired a raft of senior engineers in the wake of the diesel scandal.

“Markus Duesmann will do everything to unlock the huge potential of the Audi brand,” Volkswagen Group Chief Executive Herbert Diess said at a press conference in Wolfsburg on Friday.

Audi, based in Ingolstadt, Bavaria was a major research and development hub within Volkswagen, setting standards in aerodynamic efficiency, lightweight aluminum construction, dual-clutch gearbox technology and four-wheel drive systems.

But the premium brand struggled after it was discovered that engine management software, used to manipulate exhaust emissions tests at VW, was designed by Audi engineers, leading to the firing of engineering chiefs and its long-term CEO.

After Audi chief Rupert Stadler was dismissed, Audi installed a sales expert, Bram Schot has interim CEO, and the brand struggled to redefine “Vorsprung durch Technik.”

“We need to partly refine the ‘Vorsprung’. We are working on it,” Audi’s sales chief Hildegard Wortmann told Reuters at the Frankfurt car show in September.

“We don’t need little ‘Vorsprung’ stories, we need real ‘Vorsprung’ stories,” Audi’s current head of research and development, Hans-Joachim Rothenpieler told Reuters.

Audi’s electric car e-tron as well as fuel cell technology are two pillars upon which Audi can resurrect its brand claim, Rothenpieler said.

Audi’s works council chief, Peter Mosch, welcomed the appointment of an external manager. “From Markus Duesmann and his team we expect the stable utilization of our factories and a more courageous approach.”

Reporting by Joern Poltz in Munichand Jan Schwartz in Wolfsburg; Writing by Edward Taylor; Editing by Thomas Escritt/Louise Heavens/Jane Merriman