Gerd Klauss, a former executive with Mercedes-Benz who went on to head Audi of America and later Volkswagen Group of America, died Aug. 7 at his home in Southport, Connecticut. He was 76.
A native of Germany, Klauss studied economics at universities in Freiberg and Bonn and at Harvard University in the U.S. He began his automotive career with Mercedes-Benz of America in 1978, and in 1992, he was named head of Audi of America.
A marketing specialist, Klauss in 1994 sought to reposition Audi downmarket instead of directly competing at price points against German rivals Mercedes and BMW. In 1999, he became CEO of Volkswagen Group of America. He retired Dec. 31, 2004.
In a recent post on LinkedIn, current VW of America CEO Scott Keogh, whose career path has followed the same trajectory as Klauss', called Klauss a "legend" whose superpower was listening.
"Under his leadership, the German mothership and its American starship rallied U.S. dealers to set a new course for the four rings," Keogh wrote. Audi, he said, "simply would not be where it is today without him."