As a boy, Thiemo Rusch kicked tires at the Volkswagen and Audi dealerships he visited with his father in his native Germany. These days, he’s a driving force behind Audi’s sales success in the U.S.
Since being promoted last year, Rusch, 37, has overseen all sales operations for Audi of America, which has posted 77 straight months of sales gains — the longest streak of any other major brand. With eight teams across North America and 50 direct reports, Rusch is responsible for both new and certified pre-owned Audi sales in addition to fleet sales and mobility programs.
He got his first taste of the U.S. market in 2004 when he was transferred to Audi of America as a manager of experiential marketing. He quickly “fell in love” with the country, he says, both for its cultural diversity and as a vehicle market.
Rusch says he was drawn to the intricacies of U.S. auto retailing that arise from dealers selling cars from inventory. It’s different from Germany, where car buyers custom-order their vehicles, often waiting months to take delivery at a dealership.
“It was quite fascinating to understand how many things need to go right from a manufacturing and distribution perspective to make sure that the customer chooses one of your products versus one from the competition,” Rusch said.
He turned that fascination into action when he returned to Audi of America in 2008 after a brief stint back in Germany. He overhauled Audi’s vehicle ordering, distribution and logistics functions. The changes helped to optimize the mix of cars shipped to U.S. dealers, he says.
“We reset a lot of the processes for ordering cars,” Rusch said. “We experienced such rapid growth coming out of the [economic] crisis, we really needed to make sure we had the right products coming to the right dealerships.”
He says he approached the business by learning the inner workings of each Audi department and encouraging collaboration between departments.
“Collaboration is really the key part of this entire sales strategy,” Rusch said. “I worked with literally almost every single department ... to make sure we had a long-term plan.”
— Ryan Beene