PREPARING LUXURY BRAND, VW NAMES NEW GLOBAL MARKETING EXEC

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WOLFSBURG -- With the hopes of pushing plans for its luxury brand forward, Volkswagen has appointed Michael Grosche, 39, manager of Volkswagen's marketing communications for local and international markets. He starts his new post April 1. Grosche had formerly been responsible for Volkswagen's marketing strategy.

He replaces Rolf Dielenschneider, 48, who held the post for the past 10 years. Dielenschneider will be appointed to a new leading position involving distribution for the Volkswagen brand.

It is unclear whether Grosche or Dielenschneider will decide on the on-going agency presentation for D1, the luxury brand that Volkswagen is about to introduce.

The D1 is central to VW Chairman Ferdinand Piech's dream of pushing the VW brand upmarket and taking on luxury brands Mercedes-Benz and BMW. The D1 will compete with the Mercedes-Benz S Class and was first unveiled as a concept car at the 1999 Frankfurt Auto Show.

So far the participating agencies have made proposals for strategic planning and creativity. On March 29 another presentation for creativity will be held in Wolfsburg. Originally it had been planned that after this presentation the shortlist would be cut to two finalists. If all goes according to plan, the two finalists will make their presentations before the board after Easter.

It is thought that VW originally invited agencies to pitch including DDB Berlin; Zurich-based Weber Hodel Schmid, which had handled the European launch of DaimlerChrysler's Smart car; Duesseldorf-based Grey Worldwide, which handles Skoda in many European countries; Leagas Delaney, Hamburg; Grabarz, Hamburg; Xynias Wetzel von Buren; and Boston-based Arnold Communications, which handles VW's U.S. account. Arnold could work through its sister agency, Rempen& Partner Duesseldorf.

VW is believed to have already cut Weber Hodel Schmid, Grabarz and Xynias Wetzel von Buren.

The remaining agencies in the pitch are DDB Berlin, Grey, Leagas Delaney and Arnold Communications.

In other news, the German automaker has shifted its estimated $90 million media buying and planning business into Interpublic Group of Cos.-owned Initiative Media. Carat International had handled the account for seven years. Carat already works on the Volkswagen media account in Germany, France and Japan.

The account covers all VW marques in Spain including Seat, Audi, VW and Skoda.

Copyright March 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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