For 18 months, Adrian Hallmark had pestered his bosses at Volkswagen for reassignment.
Bentley's well-regarded, 43-year-old sales and marketing boss was restless. Finally, a few weeks ago, he got the call - while driving his family to a Swiss holiday destination.
Hallmark pulled his VW Sharan minivan off the highway outside Geneva, waving off police officers who were shooing him back onto the road. There he sat and chatted with VW brand Chairman Wolfgang Bernhard about taking over Volkswagen of America.
On October 1 Hallmark took his new post as executive vice president in charge of the VW brand in North America. The same day Hallmark's predessor Len Hunt became board member for sales and marketing at Bentley, the group's British luxury-car maker in Crewe, England.
"It's a move up for me," Hunt told Automotive News, Automotive News Europe's sister publication.
Hunt, 49, spent just a year and a half as VW's sales chief in America. US dealers raved about him, but they also profess faith in Bernhard, who made the switch.
At the IAA in Frankfurt last month, Bernhard said VW "is in crisis" in America and "our back is to the wall."
Hallmark had been angling for a place within the Volkswagen brand. When he took the Bentley job in 1999, Hallmark said he had expected to be there four years. For the last 18 months he pressured Wolfsburg to move him.
He is a key member of the team that has led Bentley's revival under VW ownership. Both the Continental GT coupe and Flying Spur sedan are sold out in the US.
But Hallmark was anxious. "I put my hand up and said 'I want to be involved in something where I can make a difference again,' " he said.
Before Bentley, the amicable executive headed Porsche's UK importer. He has no experience in the US or at a volume brand.
Hunt had run Audi of America for five years. He was in the early stages of overhauling the VW brand in the US.
Hunt sounds delighted with the change. "It's a wonderful opportunity for me," he says. "I spent 15 years at Jaguar cars. I'm a Brit, and I'm closely associated with the luxury market. It's a very natural fit for me.
"I move from a country job here to the board of a manufacturer where I have worldwide responsibility."
'Hard work' done
And Hunt says he is leaving VWoA in fine shape. "My own view - and it's a bit arrogant - is that I've turned VW around," he says. "We've got the sales in front of last year. The Passat is strong. I've just changed the ad agency, and we've got dealer confidence up. VW is in good hands for the next person to be a superhero. I did the hard work."
VW US sales are down 19.1 percent to 141,340 in the first eight months.
Hallmark says he'll take "weeks rather than months" to evaluate VW's situation in the US.
- Ralph Kisiel and Jamie LaReau contributed