Demel takes over at Audi with powers cut

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The Independent Online
HERBERT DEMEL, 40, the development director at Audi, was appointed head of the upmarket subsidiary of Volkswagen yesterday, replacing the sacked Franz-Josef Kortum. But an extraordinary meeting of Audi's supervisory board in Frankfurt said Mr Demel would not become chief executive but spokesman for the management board.

This suggests that Ferdinand Piech, chief executive of the Volkswagen group, intends to exert more direct control over Audi, which he used to head until the end of 1992. Mr Kortum, who was chosen by Mr Piech as his successor at Audi, was dismissed after 13 months in the job, blamed for plunging sales and higher than expected losses.

Since taking over Europe's largest car manufacturer at the beginning of 1993, Mr Piech's battle to staunch Volkswagen's haemorrhaging losses has resulted in a succession of executive firings - unusual for Germany where managerial sackings are virtually unheard of.

Mr Piech dismissed most of VW's group management board, then fired the head of the Spanish subsidiary, Seat, and has now axed Mr Kortum. Volkswagen's problems have been aggravated by the shadow hanging over its number two, Jose Ignacio Lopez de Arriortua, who is under criminal investigation in Germany and the US on suspicion of having stolen company secrets from his former employer, General Motors.

Mr Demel joined Audi in 1990 from Robert Bosch, the component manufacturer.