Toni Melfi Audi executive’s move could herald wider changes at the top

di's long-time communication chief Toni Melfi, a close associate of CEO Rupert Stadler, is to move to parent company VW. Could this be the prelude to a larger boardroom shake-up?

After eleven years in the job, Audi’s head of communications is moving to a new position within the larger Volkswagen Group, which owns Audi. Some are speculating that this may be the first in a series of departures from Audi’s senior team, possibly including CEO Rupert Stadler.

Times are changing at Volkswagen’s luxury subsidiary. Head of communications Toni Melfi will leave Audi to take up an as-yet-unspecified position within the wider Volkswagen Group. His successor at Audi will be Dirk Arnold, currently responsible for BMW’s electric sub-brand “i.” The change will likely take place during the summer, said sources within the company this weekend. As yet, there has been no official confirmation.

Mr. Melfi, a journalist by trade, served eleven years as Audi’s main communications manager, and is said to be a close friend of CEO Rupert Stadler. His period running Audi’s communications witnessed intense growth for the Ingolstadt-based manufacturer. In 2012, it overtook Mercedes in sales for the first time. But Dieselgate was a massive blow: Audi engineers were largely responsibility for emissions falsifications: they hit Audi particularly hard and the company has struggled to recover.

Dieselgate was a big blow to Audi, with their engineers closely involved with emissions falsification.

Last summer, Mr. Stadler swapped out half his senior management team, attempting to bring about a fresh start. Mr. Arnold will be a key figure in any changes, bringing a wealth of experience from arch-rivals BMW.

Within Volkswagen, the moves are being described as “routine.” However, speculation is growing whether, after the departure of his close associate, Mr. Stadler might be the next to go. At the company’s annual general meeting, the CEO was reelected for another five-year term, but has also been the subject of sharp criticism.

Markus Fasse specializes in aviation and automobile industry news and works from Handelsblatt's Munich office. To contact the author: [email protected]