It's that time of year again and Motor Trend Magazine has published their annual Power List of industry personalities who have more than their fair share of influence in the auto industry. As a testament to the Audi brand's own prominence in the industry, executives who manage Audi either directly or indirectly via the Volkswagen Group are highly placed. Count an ex-designer and the number only rises. Here's a rundown.
List Position: #2
Chairman of the Volkswagen AG Supervisory Board
We're guessing Ferdinand Piech only missed the #1 slot because that went to Allan Mulally or because he's already Automobile Mag's Man of the Year. While Mulally has orchestrated a major turnaround for Ford, Piech's own influence on the Volkswagen Group and Audi seems even more prolific. As a car guy too you have to give cred to the man who brings the market cars like the Bugatti Veyron or was responsible for icons such as the Audi quattro and the Porsche 917 racing program. That he orders up his own Auto Union Type A replica for grins is icing on the cake.
MT mentions the rumblings from earlier this year that Piech hinted at wanting to purchase Alfa Romeo from Fiat and then when Fiat said no he said he really wanted Ferrari. We'll see where any of that goes.
List Position #2
Chairman of the Volkswagen AG Board of Management
Just this week Martin Winterkorn had his contract renewed through 2016, retaining his seat as the leader of the Volkswagen Group. While running the Audi brand Winterkorn pushed through major projects such as the MLB chassis concept that's now being pioneered in other forms (MQB at VW, MSB at Porsche, MSS for sportscars). VW is on a march toward snagging the #1 car manufacturer position from Toyota and it's now chosen Winterkorn to lead it to that goal.
Walter de Silva
List Position #11
Volkswagen Group Chief Designer
Design is paramount to the Volkswagen Group. Virtually every brand is a design leader and the leader of that design is Walter de Silva. Audi's trademark grille was the direct work of de Silva. The A5/S5 was the direct work of de Silva. Just this year VAG purchased Giugiaro's ItalDesign firm and de Silva now manages this firm plus every other studio in the group.
List Position #30
Audi AG Chairman
When Rupert Stadler was named as Martin Winterkorn's successor in the top post at Audi, more than a few industry eyebrows may have been raised. It's not that Stadler was overly controversial, however this was a finance guy taking reigns in a position more-often-than-not held by an engineer. Would Stadler make cost his key concern and hurt Audi in the process?
Since his reign began Stadler has eased those fears. Audi has continued an onslaught of award-winning product and finds itself in record sales territory and with a high level of growth. Finance-born or not, Stadler has shown he's plenty capable of running passionate brand like Audi.
Johan de Nysschen
List Position #48
Audi of America President
Competing in the premium segment of the North American market is not for the faint of heart. The USA is the #1 car market in the world where competitors such as BMW, Mercedes, Lexus and Infiniti are all-stars at the A-game and companies such as Cadillac are showing they're more than ready to play ball with a new level of vigor. In such a market, Audi is well served by Johan de Nysschen.
The South African proved his chops running Audi Japan where he systematically moved that market into record numbers. No surprise, he's systematically done the same here in the USA and can now boast Audi's best year ever in the USA.
"It's easy when you have great product," might be a claim by detractors but they'd be missing the point. de Nysschen's focus on dealer improvement and customer experience has been paramount as has improvement in nuanced but all-important matters such as resale and holding the line on discounts when major competitors like BMW seem to be giving away the farm in comparison.
There was a brief rumor in the industry that de Nysschen would be replaced this year. No surprise, there were many relieved sighs at Audi of America headquarters in Herndon when that rumor turned out to be just that.
List Position #13
Kia Motors Design Chief
When Peter Schreyer jumped ship from Audi back in 2006 for a post as head of design at Kia, the move seemed practical. His employer Audi was well established as design powerhouse and the design teams were falling into place and didn't include the talented designer as much as he may have liked. At Kia Schreyer got full control and the Koreans are now enjoying the fruits of his labor.
List Position #34
Penske Corporation Chairman
On the track Roger Penske may have been a competitor with Audi but off the track he's a major partner. The company Penske runs (and that bears his name) owns multiple Audi dealerships and he's also a shareholder in Internet Brands who currently owns one of our competitors Audiworld.com along with VBulletin, the forum software on which this story is currently being filed.
List Position #49
Journalist, Top Gear Host
Given the power list is published by journalists, the very fact that a journalist would be on the list is very, very impressive. Also, it's hard to deny just how prolific Jeremy Clarkson and all his snark have become. Clarkson is the most recognizable of Top Gear's three commentators and he also writes for the Times of London and The Sun. Oh yeah, in a show of appreciation he also licked the airbag steering wheel of an Audi R8 and that earned him a permanent spot in the hearts of our staff.
Want to see who else made the power list? Head on over to Motor Trend (linked below) and find out.