Audi is benefiting from a surge in China demand, but it won’t offset losses suffered during lockdowns around the world caused by the coronavirus pandemic, CEO Markus Duesmann said. The 51-year-old executive also ruled out a move to Wolfsburg to take on a bigger role within Audi’s parent, the Volkswagen Group. He discussed these topics and more with Frank Johannsen, who is a reporter at Automotive News Europe sister publication Automobilwoche.

You started as Audi CEO in April, in the middle of the lockdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic. After having to wait 18 months to start at Audi following your departure from BMW, did you envision a different situation?
It was spooky somehow. I took the opportunity to spend two weeks gathering information in Ingolstadt beforehand, starting in mid-March. That was exactly the point when all the plants and the entire country shut down. I was suddenly in the thick of things and could only look on with amazement. But the crisis team completed a mammoth job in cooperation with the works council. It worked out tremendously well.

How are things going now?
July, August and September look very good. September was the strongest [sales] month of the year – worldwide. Things are going especially well in China, where we even expect a small increase for the entire year. But we are not making up for the heavy losses from April and May of this year, although our sales organization has done a really good job.

When will you be back at pre-crisis levels?
That will take a while longer. Right now, there are still many countries where consumer reluctance persists. I expect it will be about two years before the normalization is complete.

You are Audi’s CEO, R&D chief and China