Toni Melfi Audi executive’s transfer to VW, a sign of more changes at the top?

Audi's long-time communications chief will move to parent company VW. Industry watchers are suspicious this heralds the beginning of a larger boardroom shake-up at the luxury car company.
Quelle: Bloomberg
Changes at the top? New Audi cars on display in Berlin.

After 11 years in the job, Audi’s head of communications is moving to a new position within the larger Volkswagen Group, which owns Audi. Industry watchers are speculating that this may be the first in a series of departures from Audi’s senior team, possibly even including CEO Rupert Stadler.

Head of communications, former journalist Toni Melfi, is a close associate of Mr. Stadler and 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.

During the 11 years Mr. Melfi has been in charge of communications, things really changed at Volkswagen’s luxury subsidiary, with intense growth for the Ingolstadt-based manufacturer. In 2012, it overtook Mercedes-Benz in sales for the first time.

Wolfsburg, here I come (this is Toni himself)!

But Audi also got caught up in the Dieselgate affair, where VW had cheated on emissions testing of diesel vehicles. It turned out Audi engineers were partially responsibility for emissions falsifications and, although Audi has since ended internal investigations into the matter, the fallout has continued.

In fact last summer, Mr. Stadler swapped out half of his senior management team, attempting to bring about a fresh start. The new communications manager, Mr. Arnold, will be a key figure in any changes, bringing a wealth of experience from arch-rival 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]