Handelsblatt exclusive BMW executive Markus Duesmann to head Audi

VW has lured a second top manager away from BMW, hiring Markus Duesmann as the new chief executive of its subsidiary Audi. It’s a chance to finally close the Dieselgate chapter, catch up with rivals and go electric.
A mobile manager.

Three years after Herbert Diess moved from BMW to VW, the carmaker announced another hire from its Munich-based rival. Markus Duesmann, a 49-year-old board member at BMW, will head VW’s luxury brand Audi, people familiar with the matter told Handelsblatt.

VW only said Mr. Duesmann, who has also worked at Mercedes-maker Daimler and automotive engineering firm FEV, will join VW Group’s board, without giving details. Mr. Duesmann will face a cooling-off period of at least half a year before he can start at Audi, sources told Handelsblatt. It’s a common clause in contracts. In the meantime, Bram Schot will remain in place as Audi's temporary CEO.

Audi, just like its parent group, has been in turmoil since Dieselgate became public in 2015. Audi's chief executive Rupert Stadler was taken into custody last month over the emissions fraud, which affected 11 million cars globally. Mr. Stadler is still in detention, because prosecutors suspect him of trying to influence witnesses in the case. The 59-year-old has denied the charges.

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By moving to Audi, Mr. Duesmann will join his former buddy from BMW, Herbert Diess. The latter became VW's CEO in April after heading the VW passenger brand since July 2015. Mr. Diess was tasked with improving the core brand's profitability, which had been lagging behind those of major rivals, including Toyota and General Motors.

Mr. Duesmann will face similar challenges at Audi, which is based in Ingolstadt, Bavaria, and has lost market share to its German arch rivals BMW and Mercedes as well as Tesla. Three years after Dieselgate became public, he could be the perfect person to finally clear up the scandal. “Illegal emissions controls were never a topic with us (BMW),” Mr. Duesmann said in an interview with Süddeutsche Zeitung last year. “We have never discussed whether to do such a thing.” At BMW, he led the powertrain business from 2012 to 2016.

As a "Dieselgate-free" executive, the BMW manager could help restore Audi’s reputation and make a success of its new electric car models, beginning with the Etron, an electric sports utility vehicle that competes with Tesla's Model X, the BMW X6 and Mercedes GLS.

Just like Mr. Diess, Mr. Duesmann has a degree in mechanical engineering and made himself a career in Germany's auto industry. At Mercedes-maker Daimler he was a head of a diesel engine department and development leader of its Formula One team, before moving to BMW in 2007. Mr. Duesmann has been a board member since October 2016, responsible for purchasing and suppliers, a function Mr. Diess also once had at BMW.

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Martin Murphy covers the steel, car and defense industries for Handelsblatt. [email protected]