Both of Mertens' predecessors, Ulrich Hackenberg and Stefan Knirsch, were forced to leave Audi because of their alleged involvement in VW Group's emissions fraud. Knirsch didn't even survive nine months on the job before he was removed in late September.
Mertens, who was named an Automotive News Europe Eurostar this year, has played a key role in Volvo's turnaround, which has led to record sales and profits at the automaker. When he arrived at the company in 2011 he said his team felt it could not adequately compete against Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Now Volvo has Europe's No. 1 premium midsize SUV, the XC60, and the new-generation XC90 is in a close battle with the BMW X5 for the No. 1 spot in Europe's premium large SUV segment. The XC90 has also been a hit with critics, winning more than 100 global awards in a little more than a year, including 2016 North American Truck of the Year and it finished second in voting for 2016 European Car of the Year.
One of the people who will report to Mertens is former high-ranking Volvo executive Thomas Mueller, who starts as Audi's head of electrics/electronics in December. Mertens was also Mueller's boss at Volvo.
During Mueller's three and a half years at Volvo he rose to vice president electrics/electronics & chassis. Last year Mueller was named one of the Rising Stars in the European automotive industry by Automotive News Europe.
Mueller, who is also a German national, started his automotive career at BMW in 1999. He served as BMW's director of connected cars from 2009 until moving to Volvo in 2012.