FRANKFURT -- Audi's new CEO, Markus Duesmann, plans to seize the deepest industry slump in decades to make the automaker nimbler and restore its technological edge after five years of management turmoil.
Duesmann intends to review Audi's product lineup and speed up vehicle development at Volkswagen Group's premium division, he said during a webcast for the unveiling of the electric Q4 Sportback e-tron concept vehicle.
"We take the crisis as an opportunity and even an invitation to try new things," Duesmann said, in his first public comments as CEO since taking over in April. "We have to do a big job, but we will get it done."
The former BMW executive was hired to revive profits at Audi after years of upheaval in the wake of the diesel-emissions crisis that erupted in 2015.
Audi's earnings are vital for VW Group to finance the industry's largest push into electric vehicles, with the COVID-19 pandemic only increasing the pressure to become more flexible to protect liquidity.
Audi has wrestled with operational hiccups that delayed electric-car projects meant to help the automaker better compete with rival Tesla. It also saw several board members depart and last year struggled with production bottlenecks triggered by stricter emissions-testing procedures in Europe.
The Q4 Sportback e-tron is slated to expand Audi's electric-car offerings next year, flanking the e-tron crossover introduced in 2018 as well as the e-tron GT sportscar that will be based on technology from Porsche.