Audi Quattro boss Franciscus van Meel has been removed from his position and reassigned to lead the firm's Chinese operations, sources have revealed.
The move is the second senior management change in as many months at Audi. The reassignment of van Meel to head up the company's new research and development centre in Beijing is expected to be officially announced prior to the upcoming Geneva motor show.
It follows recent confirmation by Audi that design boss Wolfgang Egger will move to head up its Giugiaro design subsidiary in Turin, Italy, from February, freeing up the position for the arrival of Marc Lichte from parent company Volkswagen.
Van Meel, 46, who has headed up Audi’s Quattro division since May 2012, will be replaced by 60-year-old Audi engineering stalwart Heinz Peter Hollerweger, who is currently responsible for vehicle development at Audi’s Ingolstadt engineering headquarters in Germany.
Audi is remaining tight-lipped on the reasons surrounding the decision to reassign van Meel from one of its most profitable divisions to China, confirming: "As part of a planned rotation, Franciscus van Meel will take on a prominent role at Audi China later this year."
However, Volkswagen Group insiders hint at divisions between van Meel and Audi research and development boss Ulrich Hackenberg.
Hackenberg is said to be unsatisfied with the state of development of the upcoming second-generation R8, which was originally due to be launched during the latter half of 2014 but has now been delayed to early 2015 following a round of late engineering changes.
The change of leadership at Quattro is also said to centre around the Audi performance arm’s failure to bring the heavily hyped R8 e-tron to series production before being personally resurrected by Hackenberg.