Audi picks China boss to replace de Meo as sales chief

FRANKFURT — Audi has picked its veteran China boss, Dietmar Voggenreiter, as its new sales and marketing chief to succeed Luca de Meo.

The move, which takes effect Nov. 1, rewards Voggenreiter for his contribution in making China the brand’s single-largest market.

During Voggenreiter’s nearly nine years as Audi’s China boss sales expanded sevenfold to 579,000 vehicles by the end of last year. Today, China accounts for a third of the brand’s global volume. The number of nameplates sold in China grew to 39 from just six during his tenure and now half a dozen models are built locally by the FAW-VW joint venture instead of just a pair when Voggenreiter took over in 2007.

“I am pleased that in Dietmar Voggenreiter a manager with broad experience from within our own ranks will take over the key position as sales and marketing chief,” Audi CEO Rupert Stadler said in a release.

Audi’s sales in China, however, have stagnated this year, which the 46-year-old Voggenreiter attributed in part to aging key products such as the A4 and A6. He also said that many of Audi’s customers are entrepreneurs who work in the manufacturing, construction and real estate sector. As a result, a broad drop in property prices across the bulk of China’s 70 largest cities as well as a decline in industrial profits dampened demand to purchase new luxury cars, he argued.

On Thursday, Audi posted figures that showed China volumes in the first nine months of this year dipped 0.3 percent lower to 414,000 vehicles, underperforming a 3.8 percent increase in the automaker’s overall global deliveries.

When Audi picked Joachim Wedler in July to replace Voggenreiter as China boss, Stadler vehemently denied any speculation linking that decision to the recent lack of success in the market. Stadler called any such conjecture “bull___,” saying Voggenreiter had already wanted to return to Germany a few years ago.

Audi’s incoming sales chief received his doctorate degree from the University of Stuttgart and joined Audi in 2002 after working for the management consultancy Horvath & Partners.

Luca de Meo, 48, has been chosen as CEO of VW’s Spanish brand, Seat.

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