Whether Herbert Diess gets the contract extension he is seeking from Volkswagen Group or not, the CEO has positioned one division of the automaker to carry out his fixation with beating Tesla at its own game.
Diess has tasked Audi with key roles to develop and share software and electric-car parts across VW's stable of 12 brands. That puts the division at the forefront of building up competencies the CEO sees as pivotal to surviving disruption by Tesla and other companies racing to bring battery-powered and autonomous vehicles to market.
Diess, 62, installed new top executives this year not only to restore Audi's technological edge but to bolster returns with strict cost discipline. Efforts to do the same across VW have led Diess to come into conflict with key stakeholders over management decisions, culminating in discussions Tuesday among supervisory board members about the CEO's proposal for an early contract extension.
One of the shots Diess has been unable to call is who the next group cCFO of VW will be. Candidates he has put forward include Audi CFO Arno Antlitz, who moved to the luxury-car division in March after clashing with powerful labor leaders in his previous job as finance chief for the main VW car brand, people familiar with the matter said last week.