Johan de Nysschen, who in seven years as head of Audi of America transformed the unit from a chronic underperformer into a serious luxury contender with huge ambitions, is stepping down to accept another job.
De Nysschen announced his resignation Friday in an e-mail but did not reveal his future plans. Audi spokesman Bradley Stertz confirmed de Nysschen's departure and said it was effective immediately.
COO Mark Del Rosso will be interim president, Stertz said.
"This has been an amazing and incredibly fulfilling journey, filled with challenge, an overwhelming passion for the brand, and many special people," de Nysschen wrote in the e-mail. "These have truly been the best years of my life, and I know the best years for Audi still lie ahead. It is a magnificent company, a magnificent brand, and I shall watch the continued progress of the four rings with interest and envy."
De Nysschen, 52, had been with Audi for nearly 20 years, joining the brand in 1993 as general manager in South Africa. After six years heading Audi Japan, he became Audi of America's chief in December 2004.
Under his leadership, Audi's share of the U.S. luxury market climbed from 5.3 percent to about 10 percent so far this year. Its sales topped 100,000 for the first time two years ago, and the brand set a goal of surpassing 200,000 sales by 2018. He recently told Automotive News that he expected 2012 sales of 135,000 to 140,000 units, up from 117,561 last year.
To support its planned growth, Audi announced in April that it would open an assembly plant in Mexico to build SUVs starting in 2016.
Audi reported a 10 percent gain in May sales, marking the 17th consecutive monthly record for the brand. The company's news release quoted de Nysschen as saying, "Audi's progressive luxury and technologically advanced vehicle portfolio continues to set the pace in the high-end sector of the luxury car market."
De Nysschen improved Audi's position on luxury shoppers' consideration list, boosted resale values and increased transaction prices.
He leaves with Audi almost two-thirds of the way through its 10-year plan for growth in North America. The plan involves considerable expansion of the brand's lineup, dealer bonuses to increase customer satisfaction, showroom makeovers and increased marketing.