Audi of America head steps down

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June 1, 2012

By: AudiWorld staff

We’re hearing from a variety of sources that Audi of America president Johan de Nysschen has stepped down from his post. We’re awaiting formal announcement from AOA.

We’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Mr. de Nysschen over the years, we’ll miss his unending enthusiasm for not only the Audi brand, but automobiles in general. He is a true enthusiast, and we wish him the best.

Following is de Nysschen’s bio from Audi of America.

Johan de Nysschen is President of Audi of America and, in seven years at the helm, has led the company to first-tier status among premium automotive brands.

Audi in the United States posted 2011 sales of 117,561 vehicles, up by more than half from sales in 2004, when de Nysschen came to the U.S. post from president of Audi of Japan. During the same time, the brand’s share of the American luxury-vehicle market grew to 9.5 percent from 5.3 percent.

“Our focus is to be the most desired and aspirational luxury automotive brand in the United States, and that doesn’t necessarily mean to sell the most cars,” says the 52-year-old native South African. “What’s most important for us is to maintain our exclusivity – be not easily attainable – and command a price position that supports the premium reputation of the brand and develop a reputation in ownership experience that adds value to the core product. Tantamount to that is the importance of maintaining residual values for Audi vehicles, which builds equity for our customers and reduces the long-term costs of ownership.”

De Nysschen’s tenure in the United States has followed a five-year stint as president of Audi of Japan during which its sales nearly tripled. He inherited a complex web of distribution relationships among the Audi unit and Toyota, and Japanese car dealers, as well as with the sibling Volkswagen unit in the country. De Nysschen streamlined the Audi retail system by terminating the distribution agreement with Toyota and separating the remaining Audi stores from the Volkswagen brand. He established an exclusive network of 80 Audi dealers, giving them a reconfigured product lineup as well.

Perhaps surprisingly, de Nysschen was pulled to the top spot of Audi’s crucial American business unit without ever having served in a post at Audi headquarters. He came to Audi in South Africa, where de Nysschen’s signature achievement was the build-out of Audi’s brand presence in a country whose post-apartheid economy was bustling. De Nysschen’s charge was not only to develop the Audi product line in South Africa but also many other aspects of the operation, including local production, exports and a domestic dealer network.

“It was a fantastic training ground,” de Nysschen recalls. “It was complex, but in terms of the size and dimensions of the job, something senior management felt comfortable enough to entrust to a relatively young person.”

Actually, de Nysschen had dreamed of leading Audi to industrial glory from a young age. Audi was his favorite brand when, at only three years old, he pored over automotive ads in the local newspaper. “I actually persuaded my father to buy his first Audi, in ’73, because I thought they were great cars,” he remembers. “And from that age I wanted to work for Audi, and told my parents that was what I wanted to do. And I was only 13 years old.”

Thwarted after college from getting a job with an auto company by the fact of western economic sanctions against a South African regime that was still clinging to apartheid, instead de Nysschen joined the federal traffic-safety department. And far from a bureaucratic dead end, the job actually entailed a lot of interaction with the industry and with the public.

De Nysschen left only after heading a committee that developed a new driver’s license test for South Africa that is still being used today.

De Nysschen’s first private-sector job, with a company that supplied plastic bumpers to BMW, led to his joining the BMW marketing-planning department in the early Nineties. He concentrated on building up the company’s retail presence in South Africa, and when Volkswagen wanted to do the same thing with Audi, they recruited de Nysschen.

Shaping up the retail environment amid flagging sales was one of the biggest challenges that faced de Nysschen when he eventually made it to Audi of America as well. So he pushed dealers to commit to invest more in the brand or to exit it, and de Nysschen has doubled the exclusive dealer count for Audi of America while improving what he calls “the quality of representation.” He also has filled out the company’s once-spotty product lineup and brought in fresh and effective new management talent as well as dramatically refined and strengthened the brand.

A married father of two, when he’s not leading Audi of America, de Nysschen likes to indulge in motorcycling, dabble in architectural design and collect wines.


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