Jan Münchhoff is Head of Development Foundation Brakes, Audi AG. With the Audi and Lamborghini brands, the Audi Group has long been one of the most successful car manufacturers in the premium and supercar segment. The Headquarters in Ingolstadt, Germany features a large portion of production, technical development, sales and administration. In the following Q&A, Jan shares with us his valuable insights on the topics of leadership and success.
TBR: What is your current role and area of responsibility?
JM: Since about one decade I am leading the Foundation Brakes Development at Audi. We are here in Ingolstadt, Germany a team of engineers closely cooperating with all important suppliers in brakes always hunting the best technology that promises high performance and high comfort. To keep pace with our customers we are permanently looking for innovation in product, development process and tools.
TBR: How would you describe your leadership style and why has it worked so well for you?
JM: As Audi Brand claims is “Vorsprung durch Technik” (Advancement through Technology) this also drives our leadership style. As we are trying to employ high experienced technical experts that can achieve our company’s claim, there is a need for a democratic leadership as this is how the teams ideas can form into our products. Furthermore, upcoming new challenges and ever-changing customer expectations force us to permanently integrate young engineers with different mindsets being open to completely new ideas and working structures. These talents strongly profit from a coaching leadership approach in order to develop their skills. As this mix of people require common goals also some “balancing” excellence is needed again and again. Hence, we try to use a good mix of leadership styles where they are needed. This seems to work out well for me and made me becoming the head of a fantastic and diverse group of people that I love to work with every day.
TBR: What do you look for when evaluating top talent?
JM: We are always looking for people with passion for technology. But for a top talent this is only the smaller part of the skill set. Even more important is the attitude towards others. We want our people to be team players being honest, trustful and caring and moreover have a vision they are willing to push for patiently and consequently with their colleagues and our partners.
TBR: What do you see as your biggest challenge right now at Audi AG?
JM: Right now we are focusing at least two big and potentially disruptive challenges: the race for very efficient and in general sustainable cars and the vision of autonomous driving. Both topics are heavily linked to brake design as more and more functions are driving brake parameters by mechatronics systems such as ESC or ADAS. To stand these challenges we need to do a lot of research together with our partners in the scientific world in order to create necessary knowledge about tribology, structural mechanics and mechatronics. Only the combination of these fields of knowledge will enable us to continuously create customer values like brake NVH, perceived and objective safety and also the premium styling we are going to deliver. These challenges make us struggle again and again, but hence they are continuously creating new solutions in the discussions with our partners.
TBR: What products are you most excited about or what initiatives do you have going on that you would like to share?
JM: Just one thing to highlight: Obviously we are very proud of our completely new range of high performance and light weight opposed piston calipers specially designed for our car lineup ranging from Audi A4 to Audi Q7 and further future model lines. All of these new developments are equipped with copper-free (less than 0,5% copper) brake pad materials already compliant to the future environment regulations in the US. We are talking now about 4 and 6 piston calipers inspired from race sport experiences – maybe in the very next future we can even add something “extra hot” to that portfolio that has not been seen before.
TBR: How did your career begin and what was your first job in Industry?
JM: I am a brake guy since my days as a student. I was working with Continental Teves on future electromechanical brake systems during my final studies at university. At Audi I was continuing to work in that field and became finally head of engineering of ESC systems after different positions in brake and chassis development. In that time I was also for a while in our US office in Auburn Hills, MI. Since 2005 I am head of foundation brake development – and I am still very inspired by the challenges of our industry.
TBR: If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself at age 20?
JM: Keep curious and open minded. Use your twenties for shaping your knowledge base and your personality and for collecting as much experience as possible all over the industry and in the scientific world.
TBR: Name your favorite / recent book(s) you have read:
About Audi AG
With the Audi and Lamborghini brands, the Audi Group has long been one of the most successful car manufacturers in the premium and supercar segment. In addition, the sales subsidiaries of the Audi Group supplies cars of other Volkswagen Group brands to customers. Since 2012, motorbikes from the traditional Italian brand Ducati have supplemented the range. Furthermore, the Audi Group also supplies other Volkswagen Group brands to customers via sales companies.