Audi's chief designer Wolfgang Egger is to be replaced by senior VW designer Marc Lichte, according to company insiders. Egger is leaving to head Italdesign Giugiaro in Turin.
Whether Lichte's arrival will mark a turning point in the brand's design or not, the Volkswagen Group hopes its will calm matters at Audi Design, which has most recently been rocked by the departure of Achim Badstübner for Mercedes-Benz. From 1 January, Badstübner will head the brand's exterior design from Sindelfingen, Germany.
Egger, a former Alfa Romeo and SEAT designer and protégé of Volkswagen Group chief designer Walter de'Silva, has headed Audi Design since 2007. But up to early 2012, the brand worked under a complex arrangement that saw Egger reporting to Audi CEO Rupert Stadler, while Stefan Sielaff worked closely with then-R&D chief Michael Dick. That arrangement had been a source of friction, but it had also allowed Egger to focus on strategic and creative issues. It was ended by the since-ousted R&D chief Wolfgang Dürheimer, who demanded that Egger report to him directly.
Egger's controversial reorganization
Upon taking over Sielaff's responsibilities, Egger set out to reorganize Audi design. In April 2013, he moved Achim Badstübner from the position of exterior chief designer to head the Munich studio; Badstübner was replaced by Stephen Lewis. Former head of interior design Norbert Weber, who already gave up his post to Karl-Heinz "Enzo" Rothfuss in 2012, was moved to "special assignments"; Audi Design's "keeper of processes" Harald Schwonburg was put in charge of coordinating the move into a new design building. In the past, Schwonburg had overseen the exemplary craftsmanship of Audi's presentation models.
Badstübner, Schwonburg, Sielaff and Weber had been presented as the faces of Audi design when the A7 luxury sedan was unveiled at the Paris auto show in the fall of 2010. None of them hold their former position anymore. The situation in Ingolstadt has drawn the attention of Walter de'Silva, who has started to pay regular visits to Ingolstadt several weeks ago, and of R&D member Ulrich Hackenberg.
Switching from Audi to Italdesign, a far smaller operation, is a sideways move at best, but it is not without challenges. As head of Italdesign – a formerly independent design house which is still partly owned by patriarch Giorgio Giugiaro – Egger will continue to provide alternative design proposals for the Volkswagen Group's different brands. In August 2010, the Volkswagen Group bought 90.1 percent of the ailing design house. Most recently, Italdesign has shown the Parcour concept car, which was retouched and displayed as the Audi Nanuk quattro concept at the Frankfurt auto show.
Egger's successor at Audi, Marc Lichte, graduated from Pforzheim university in 1995; he has worked on several of the most important Volkswagen brand vehicles of the past decade, including several generations of the Golf.
Audi has yet to officially confirm Egger's and Lichte's moves.
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