Motor Trend Magazine has published their February 2012 issue that contains their annual Power List, 50 of the most powerful movers and shakers in the auto industry. Each year we highlight those who have had some guiding effect on Audi either currently or over the brand's history. Here's the 2012 rundown listed in reverse order as in the article.
42.) Johan de Nysschen, Audi of America President
2011 Rank: 48
Though the Power List is dominated by world market figures such as executives and designers, de Nysschen's inclusion as chief of an import market is significant. Poll anyone at Audi USA's Herndon, VA headquarters and they'd have no problem explaining in detail just how important this South African-born executive has been to Audi's American success. Yes, Audi has great product, but the success of Audi in America goes well beyond that. de Nysschen has been keen to push for products that are right for the US market, like the Q5. He even championed of the upcoming A3 sedan. de Nysschen got Audi out of the incentive business that has helped the bottom line and has made improvement of the dealer experience, customer relations and resale value key components to getting Audi's American business in order. Kudos to Johan, who deserves his spot as a veteran of the MT Power List.
40.) J. Mays, Ford Motor Company, Design Group VP
Last Ranked 2008: 50
Maybe best known for his work on the Volkswagen Concept 1 (New Beetle) while he was an Audi designer at the company's California design studio, Ford's design boss' early career goes back even further with the four rings. And while shakeups at his current employer have perhaps been part of his absence since the market collapsed in 2008, Mays returns to MT's power list this year on the eagerness of what's to come from both the blue oval and their push to reinvigorate the Lincoln brand.
28.) Martin Smith, Ford Europe Executive Design Director
2011 Rank: 33
You could create a rather burgeoning club of high-ranking designers who got their start at Audi. J. Mays and Peter Schreyer are more modern and well-known as ex-Audi stylists but even Ford's European design boss and father of the blue oval's Kinetic Design language has called Ingolstadt home. Even more important around these pages, Martin Smith is also the father of the Ur quattro, the man who chose to put those block fender arches on Audi's best-known icon.
22.) Rupert Stadler, Audi AG Chairman
2011 Rank: 30
When we first met Rupert Stadler it was over dinner at a launch too long ago to remember the subject. What we do remember about him though was clear. At the time, Stadler was the Audi AG Board member in charge of finance and not the typical engineer or designer whom Audi often brings out for a press event. The other thing we remember was how impressive Stadler was as an enthusiast. There was no need to apologize for the fact that he was a money and finance guy. Stadler knew the cars.
Putting Stadler in charge of Audi AG when Dr. Winterkorn vacated the position to take over at the helm of the Volkswagen Group was an atypical move at Audi. Chairmen usually came from the engineering side and Stadler was not an engineer. However, any worries product people may have had about a financier at the wheel have long from gone. Audi AG has continued its dominant growth and, thanks to Stadler, does so very profitably.
11.) Peter Schreyer, KIA Design Chief
2011 Rank: 13
Given Audi's leadership role in design, it's no surprise that top designers get poached by other companies. Audi's own Stefan Sielaff once told us it was likely his brief departure for Mercedes that put him in a leadership track back at Audi. The move solidified the demand for Sielaff's expertise in the eyes of his superiors. So too might be the move by Schreyer.
Several years ago Schreyer departed Audi to take over design chief duties at KIA. Being dropped on a very ambitious brand with little to no design heritage presented a significant challenge for the German though more and more handsome products from the Korean brand thanks to Schreyer's keen eye prove this was a very smart move for KIA. Though no longer in the Audi fold, we're enjoying watching Peter's work from afar.
7.) Walter de Silva, Volkswagen Group Design Chief
2011 Rank: 11
You know Audi's trademark shield grille? Yep, that's a Walter de Silva thing. When Walter de Silva retires from design he will be lauded as an icon. Heck, he likely already is one. The influence de Silva's discerning eye has had on Audi and its parent the Volkswagen Group is likely immeasurable. de Silva protege Wolfgang Egger has just taken over the reigns at Audi as brand design boss as well. The future is bright.
6.) Ferdinand Piech, Volkswagen AG Chairman
2011 Rank: 2
It is known that Ferdinand Porsche created a dynasty within the automotive world and that a number of his grandchildren have carried on in the family business and to wild degrees of success. It is also known that of that group of grandchildren, it was Ferdinand Piech who did not carry the Porsche name. Perhaps it was this factor or one of many others that lead to a tenacity nearly unmatched in the automotive industry. By sheer will it often seems like Piech succeeds and we'd not bet against him as a result.
Thanks to Piech we had the Porsche 917, the Audi quattro and the Bugatti Veyron. Thanks to Piech and his strong management we have a very healthy Audi brand as it exists today. Piech turns 75 on April 17 this year and his term as the Chairman at Volkswagen is set to end two days later. The acquisition of Porsche still hasn't been finalized and as of yet he hasn't reached his goal of taking the mantle of 'World's largest car manufacturer from Toyota' and even at 75 Piech seems like he's got plenty left to prove. We wouldn't be surprised to see him stick on just a bit longer.
4.) Martin Winterkorn, Volkswagen AG Board of Management Chairman
2011 Rank: 4
Martin Winterkorn preceded Rupert Stadler as head of Audi and under his stewardship we saw a revolution, including the hiring of Walter de Silva, the creation of the Audi Q series of crossovers and the introduction of the R8. Winterkorn took a third place luxury brand in Germany and made it the most dominant of its peers through massive rollout of tier 1 product and backing it up with year over year success at Le Mans. By introducing the MLB modular matrix, Winterkorn led the way to the greation of ultimately flexible platform component systems that are now being replicated for transverse engine cars (MQB), mid-engine cars (MSS and MSB-M) and more. With Winterkorn at the wheel, it Piech's goals for growth seem most attainable but the going won't be entirely smooth. For one, there's the matter of Porsche's acquisition that seems to never be fully accomplished thanks to a mire of legal proceedings that have surrounded it. Even still, MT suggests Winterkorn's outlook is excellent and we'd fully agree.
Above is our impression of the executives at hand, no doubt just a bit biased given this is an Audi website. We'd suggest you check out the Power List in the February issue of Motor Trend to see who else is there and hear their own take on the executives and designers above . Check it out on pp. 74-82.