Hildegard Wortmann believes that the old ways are not always a given. This applies to electro mobility, as much as it does a healthy work culture
By all accounts, Hildegard Wortmann—Audi AG’s member of the board of management for sales and marketing—is a veteran in the automobile industry. She first joined BMW back in 1998 and swiftly moved up the ranks, before embarking on her new role at Audi in 2019.
Yet rather than resting on her laurels, she’s remarkably prescient in her vision for electro mobility, actively steering the wheel of a brand that’s determined to spearhead the charge into relatively uncharted terrain. Audi has announced that it will deliver solely electric-powered vehicles from 2026, and plans to cease its production of combustion engines by 2032. The Volkswagen Group—which includes Audi—is also investing around €160 billion in new, greener technologies.
“Vorsprung durch Technik (‘Progress By Technology’) is the ethos of the brand that will always be relevant. As we enter the changing age of electro mobility, however, what defines progress has changed. It’s no longer about what’s technologically possible, but what’s technologically meaningful—that is, how can we develop technology that responds to today’s challenges like decarbonisation? Beyond simply providing a strong product offering—such as the e-tron GT and Q4 e-tron—Audi is determined to develop an entire ecosystem and build the infrastructure to support it. We have, for example, created about 460,000 charging points in Europe and are doing the same in the US with Electrify America.
Sustainability is much more than just a buzzword. It’s not just about delivering the best electric models, but about changing our entire value chain—from supplier network to the types of partnerships we form. A good example is Audi’s collaboration with Stella McCartney, who’s leading the sustainability front in fashion. If we as a brand want to stay relevant, we must embrace sustainability and show consumers what the brand stands for. As I like to say, “The future is an attitude.”
The automotive industry still has a long way to go in terms of diversity and inclusion. There are certainly more women occupying leadership roles, but I don’t think that’s nearly enough. My advice for young women in the industry would be to go for it. Be assertive and never take no for an answer. At the same time, stay true to yourself and be authentic. We need more people with the courage to be change drivers.
I love the Audi RS e-tron GT. In the past, we’ve had icons like the Audi R8, TT and Quattro. I believe that the RS e-tron GT is the icon of the future. It ticks all the right boxes to be a phenomenal car: fully electric, sleek design, sporty and with premium interiors.
It’s impossible to work like a machine—you also need to have empathy. Rather than establishing hierarchies, I prefer cultivating an ‘unbossed’ culture. Power is temporary, and I’d rather empower my team to be successful while having a good time. Life is too short to be spent on things that don’t make you happy. Of course, that doesn’t negate the need for well defined, practical goals. A good leader will enable her team to achieve them together.”