July 22, 2015 / 11:10 AM / 4 years ago

Audi replaces China chief as sales drop accelerates

BERLIN (Reuters) - Volkswagen’s Audi (VOWG_p.DE) division will replace the head of its Chinese operations as the luxury carmaker grapples with an accelerating sales decline in its key market.

A worker fixes a car emblem as she assembles Audi A8 models at their plant in Neckarsulm near Heilbronn May 21, 2015. REUTERS/Michael Dalder

Dietmar Voggenreiter, who has led Audi’s business in the world’s largest auto market since 2009, will leave his post at the end of the year and be replaced by Joachim Wedler, Audi said in the July edition of in-house newspaper “Audi Mobil.”

Wedler currently oversees Audi’s strategy on model lines.

VW’s flagship division is reviewing a 2015 target of delivering 600,000 cars in China after its sales slowed markedly in the first six months, culminating in a 5.8 percent drop in June.

The Ingolstadt-based carmaker said last week it would provide an update on its sales target for China when publishing financial results for the first half of 2015 on July 30.

Audi, China’s top-selling luxury-car maker and VW’s main profit contributor, may feel the Chinese slowdown of demand more strongly in coming years than German rivals BMW (BMWG.DE) and Daimler (DAIGn.DE), research firm IHS Automotive says.

After sales surged 147 percent to about 580,000 cars between 2010 and 2014, volume growth at Audi may slow to 25 percent over the 2014-2020 period, compared with 31 percent at BMW and 65 percent at Mercedes, according to IHS estimates.

That would take Audi’s sales to 725,000 by 2020, still above BMW’s 579,000 and Mercedes’ 458,000.

Audi dismissed the idea of any connection between the brand’s worsening performance in China and the departure of Voggenreiter, who will return to Audi’s German operations.

“That is completely unfounded,” a spokesman said.

Reporting by Andreas Cremer and Irene Preisinger; Editing by Mark Potter and Georgina Prodhan

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