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Automotive industry veteran and Audi AG’s first female board member HILDEGARD WORTMANN sheds light on the marque’s leap into the future and her inspiring leadership journey – all of which focuses on putting people first.

Hildegard Wortmann’s appointment to the board of management for sales and marketing at Audi AG in mid-2019 came at an opportune moment. The topic of diversity and inclusion had been gaining momentum more than ever, while the future of electro-mobility was quickly taking shape. The executive, who has over two decades of experience in the automotive industry, is now part of the leadership force realising the brand’s vision of becoming a sustainable, social and technological leader by 2030.

Named Vorsprung 2030, the strategy paves a clear roadmap Audi will play in the mobility of the future, according to Wortmann. In this drive to accelerate its own transformation, new car models from 2026 will be all-electric while combustion engine production will be gradually phased out by 2033. Under development right now is an extensive ecosystem for electric cars, with Audi expanding after-sales offering to include intelligent hardware and predictive service. This commitment to sustainability, which has found resounding support among its staff and management, is also enshrined thoroughly in the company’s processes.

The German word Vorsprung translates to progress, but Wortmann has a deeper interpretation for it: “It means understanding what moves people, which is why we strive to operate through the lens of human centricity, where we consistently place people and their needs at the centre of our actions.”

The Audi RS e-tron GT

What does Vorsprung 2030 mean for the Audi driver?
An all-encompassing premium customer experience is crucial for the mobility of the future. To deliver that promise, we are working on innovative ways to excite and inspire our customers, and offer a holistic experience beyond the vehicle itself. It is vital to also support the expansion of charging infrastructure with strong partnerships across Europe, Asia and America. In Singapore, we are growing a network of fast-charging sites at 35 lifestyle destinations, with the first site already operational at Orchardgateway.

Driving goes beyond just a relationship with the car. How is Audi shaping the complete customer experience?The customer’s voice is heavily integrated into our development processes; therefore, our top priority is ensuring occupants always receive the very best in-car experience. Mobility is increasingly transitioning towards a digitally connected ecosystem, in which a lot of external factors such as infrastructure and other road users have to be considered. Current driver assistance systems, such as turn and parking assistants, camera-based road sign recognition, and radar sensors that detect collision hazards, will pave the way for safer roads. We are also connecting cars with cities and testing intelligent traffic management to further optimise traffic flow for greater road efficiency and safety for all.

The recent years have been dominated by electric mobility. How has this trend changed the general perception of motoring?
For us, electric mobility is not just a trend; it is the most efficient way to achieve decarbonisation. In the first three quarters of 2022, global deliveries of our all-electric vehicles performed very well, increasing by more than 45 per cent compared to the previous year. Regardless of the drive, our models continue to be defined and infused with the same Audi DNA that has made us renowned for performance and innovation worldwide. Electric driving and performance are no contradiction. The Audi RS e-tron GT is the best example that electric driving is truly dynamic and fascinating. I can only recommend people try to experience this first-hand.

It is heartening to see sustainability gaining such support among drivers. Studies show that customers in general place greater importance on values and sustainability initiatives that brands have, and are wary of greenwashing. From my point of view, climate change is one of the most pressing challenges we are facing today. As we continue the transition to an all- electric fleet in 2026, Audi will consistently keep integrating sustainability across all aspects of the brand. For example, sustainability is one of the key criteria for partnerships and events – we are a founding member of Greentech Festival, which saw the recent conclusion of its inaugural edition in Singapore.

As Audi’s first female board member, what unique perspectives do you bring to the top management table?
I understand leadership as the responsibility to empower people, set a clear vision and give a positive outlook. We must drive change together and not be driven by it!

To achieve this, communication is essential. #LLX is my personal motto: Listen, Learn, Exchange. Also, one of my core beliefs is that we have to “unboss” our management style and get rid of old hierarchical notions. Leadership is not a right, but a privilege granted by your team – and this has to be earned on a daily basis. I strive to build a diverse and agile team; one that is flexible and in which members trust each other. Leading a team also means listening – not with the intent to reply, but to understand. And, as Audi’s first female board member, female empowerment, diversity and inclusion are, of course, also close to my heart.

What challenges have you faced in your journey of leadership, and what advice would you give to younger women in this industry?
I always see challenges as opportunities to learn something new and to further develop. Sure, I had to get used to being the only female at the table. But now there are so many young and incredible women in this sector, and I hope to continue championing their contributions. It is imperative that the industry empowers young talents and encourages them, especially women, to think boldly. Regardless of gender, I have some more advice for young people: Build a strong network and participate in it, online and offline, when you plan your career. Ask lots of questions! Look for mentors who will give you honest career advice. Have a clear career plan, but stay true to yourself. Do not bend and always plan the next step. And last, but not least: Go abroad! The sooner and the younger you go out into the world, the better.