FRANKFURT -- Audi said former BMW executive, Hildegard Wortmann, will take charge of its sales and marketing effective July 1. Wortmann will succeed Bram Schot, who was promoted to Audi CEO on Jan. 1.
Audi said Wortmann's more than 20 years of international experience in the sales and marketing of premium cars makes her "the ideal executive to refocus and shape the brand innovatively."
Wortmann joins Audi at a time when the brand is falling behind rivals Mercedes-Benz and BMW in the race to be the global luxury-car leader. As an outsider, she is also untainted by Volkswagen Group's diesel-cheating scandal that started at Audi and led to the loss of key executives.
At BMW, Wortmann, 52, was a contender to replace BMW's long-serving sales chief, Ian Robertson, when he retired in 2017, sources told Automotive News Europe. BMW instead hired outsider Pieter Nota from Dutch electronics and lighting company Philips. Wortmann was reassigned to be head of BMW's Asia Pacific region excluding China.
BMW last month appointed former Daimler executive Jens Thiemer to Wortmann's former role as head of brand management. Thiemer succeeded Sven Schuwirth, who left BMW in May. German media reports said Schuwirth is returning to Audi, his former employer.
Audi once targeted becoming the top-selling global premium brand but now trails rivals Mercedes-Benz and BMW. Audi's global vehicle sales fell by 2.4 percent to 1.65 million in the first 11 months of 2018. Mercedes was the best-selling luxury brand though November with vehicle sales of 2.1 million, a year-on-year rise of 0.4 percent. BMW brand increased its sales by 1.8 percent to 1.92 million.
In July, Audi parent VW Group said it had hired former BMW purchasing director Markus Duesmann for an unspecified management board role. Press reports said Duesmann had been lined up to head Audi, but BMW refused to release him from a non-compete clause that expires in 2020. Instead VW Group made permanent Schot's role as interim Audi chief. Schot had been leading Audi since former CEO Rupert Stadler was arrested in June by German prosecutors investigating Audi's emissions cheating.