Audi's new sales and marketing chief, Hildegard Wortmann, aims to give the brand a makeover. Audi is still reeling from its role developing the software that led to parent Volkswagen Group's diesel-rigging scandal. Wortmann joined Audi from BMW in July. She spoke with Rebecca Eisert of Automotive News Europe's sister publication, Automobilwoche.
What would you like to accomplish at Audi?
It is a bit early to say, but I intend to create the legends of the future since the legends of the past won't work in the future.
Can you give us an example?
The Quattro is a legend of the past, and perhaps the e-tron is the legend of the future.
Audi's marketing slogan "Advancement through Technology" was often parodied during the diesel crisis. Is it actually possible to keep it?
We shouldn't give up the ambition to highlight our advances just because of those headlines. Our advances continue to be the core of the brand. I think the claim is fantastic and more contemporary than ever. We need to recharge it. Advancement originally referred to the outer limit of achievable technology. In a society that is trying hard to be sustainable, "advancement" has to play a different role.
What role specifically?
We have to get away from what is cold and technocratic. We want to be more approachable, emotional, and more geared to experiences. This is about conveying modernity, progressiveness, an awareness of life and the spirit of the times. We have to rejuvenate the brand.
Does this eliminate the "Technology" part?
Not at all. It is just a different meaning. The value-added for the customer is in the foreground.
VW brand displayed its new brand presence at the Frankfurt auto show in September. It is becoming more colorful and diverse. Are you going in the same direction?
No. VW and Audi are positioned quite differently. VW is a great "people's car," and Audi aspires to be sporty and progressive in the premium segment. Different visualizations go hand-in-hand with these different views.
Electric cars only differ from internal-combustion vehicles in their powertrains. Is it possible for brands to use them to differentiate themselves?
Much more is involved here. There is the key issue of sustainability, the positioning that you are able show with it, and connectivity and services.
You could also have those in cars with internal combustion engines.
But they don't exist. The new departure into the age of electric mobility is the start of a new world. Just look at how interiors are changing. The power of this new departure is coming at a crucial point for Audi to reposition itself.
You are the first woman on the Audi's management board. Is that a key issue for you?
Naturally, when it helps you make a difference. I can see this in the strong signal that my appointment is sending out. I've received a great deal of encouragement from Audi employees. I would be thrilled if I could be a good example.