When Stephan Winkelmann took over as boss of Audi Sport, he helped turn the brand around and create real brand recognition in the industry. He also promised a lot of big changes and additions to the Audi Sport brand, including a halo hypercar atop the Audi R8, more SUVs and even the possibility of a rear-wheel drive car. Now, though, Winkelmann has left Audi Sport, not even a year after taking the CEO job, to join Bugatti.
Prior to working for Audi Sport, Winkelmann was the boss of Lamborghini and brought a much-needed flare to the staid and clinical Audi Sport brand. Now, though, he replaces Wolfgang Dürheimer as President of Bugatti. So he’s moving up in the Volkswagen Group world.
Replacing Winkelmann at Audi Sport will be Michael-Julius Renz, formerly the president of Audi’s China division. Renz was also the head of Audi sales in Germany for a time. So he’s familiar with the Audi brand but there’s no guarantee he will bring the same sort of excitement to the brand that Winkelmann had.
Although, it has been under Winkelmann’s watch that Audi Sport has been accused of becoming too soft. The new Audi RS5 Coupe is more aggressive looking than the car it replaced but that aggression ends with its looks. The actual nature of the car is rather calm, smooth and comfortable. It’s become more of a brutally fast grand tourer than a rip-snorting sports car. So maybe Winkelmann, with all of his style and flare, was actually pushing for a more grand-touring ethos than hardcore sports cars.
We’re kind of shocked that Winkelmann would leave so soon after getting the job but I guess being president of Bugatti is a better gig. It will be interesting to see how the brand changes, if it changes at all, now with Renz in charge.