“The introduction of brand group management means that Audi plays an even more important role in the Volkswagen Group.”
You have been a Member of the Board of Management of AUDI AG since April 1, 2021, and are responsible for Finance and Legal Affairs. What conclusions would you draw after a year?
This was a very exciting year for me: my move to Ingolstadt, a new environment, a completely new team and major challenges straight away. The semiconductor crisis shaped my work from the very first day in Ingolstadt and made it very challenging to steer the company financially. We had to halt production several times and were unable to fully meet the high demand of our customers. But we countered this successfully. We also launched many key projects that, among other things, targeted an increase in our profitability, and these projects will lay the foundation for our financial success in the future. My team has achieved great things in this respect and proved how passionate it is about the Audi brand.
Audi wants to achieve an operating return on sales of more than 11 percent from 2030. Which investments are required for this?
We have taken on a considerable challenge with the “Vorsprung 2030” strategy. An innovative and attractive product portfolio is the backbone of sales and profitability targets. That’s why we have now once more increased our investments in the investment planning approved by the Supervisory Board at the end of the year. The Audi Group is planning research and development activities and capex amounting to about EUR 37 billion in total by 2026. As much as EUR 18 billion of this is earmarked for electrification and hybridization. Our priority is to further expand our electric portfolio so that we can offer electric models in all core segments in 2027. A percentage will also be set aside for investment in the joint venture for local electric vehicle production with FAW-Volkswagen in China.
You talk about major investments in the coming years. How do you intend to manage these investments?
We will leverage this in two ways: Firstly, we will focus on the profitability of current and future products, continue to optimize our fixed costs and therefore increase the long-term business performance. Secondly, we will exploit synergies in the Group wherever possible and meaningful through shared electronics and drive platforms as well as joint software development with CARIAD.
ESG is an important pillar of the strategy “Vorsprung 2030.” What does that mean for Audi?
I am convinced that economic success and sustainable entrepreneurship are two sides of the same coin. As a company, we bear special responsibility for our environment and society. And we also have to embody this in all products and processes. Our ESG performance serves as proof of the future viability of Audi – in terms of legal compliance, a fundamental shift in customer behavior and financial assessment. It is for this reason that we have firmly anchored ESG criteria in our “Vorsprung 2030” strategy. But there is no blueprint; every company has to find its own path. And that’s what we are doing. For us, ESG goes beyond just measures for reducing CO₂. We have always taken a holistic view of this in the company. We are introducing an ESG management system to reinforce this in our processes. ESG is to play a role in all corporate decisions made by Audi as well as in its products and services. We will also have our ESG performance rated by an independent rating agency.
Audi manages the Premium brand group with Lamborghini, Bentley and Ducati. What advantages do you see in the new brand group management?
We have established a new management model with the newly formed Premium brand group. This means that Audi plays an even more important role in the Volkswagen Group. In many areas this gives us the opportunity to accelerate decisions by making them directly and conclusively at brand group level. This makes us more efficient. We can therefore make optimum use of synergies above all in the areas of electronics and platforms. At the same time, brand group management will also allow us to increase transparency by reporting selected key performance indicators as well as strategic goals of the Audi, Lamborghini, Bentley and Ducati brands externally.
New digital business models will become increasingly important in the future for the automotive industry. How far is Audi in this area and what will change as a result for your area of responsibility?
We can see a clear shift of profit pools toward digitalization, primarily with the introduction of automated driving in the second half of the decade. The car of the future will become a digital device. We have to utilize this potential by accompanying our customers in the future throughout the entire life cycle and keeping the vehicle up to date at all times, for example by means of software updates. We know that we have some way to go still in this respect. But we have laid the foundations, primarily with the pooling of our software expertise at CARIAD.
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