Meet Rahil Ansari of Volkswagen Group Taiwan

As CEO and Chairman of Volkswagen Group Taiwan and Managing Director of Audi Taiwan, Rahil Ansari has led projects that advance both business objectives and societal good. Ansari first joined Audi in 2004 as a pricing consultant, after which he held several management positions throughout India and Germany before relocating to Taiwan. 

Ansari holds an undergraduate degree in European Business from Aachen University of Applied Sciences and obtained a master’s in business and economics at Mid Sweden University. 

TOPICS Associate Editor Alex Myslinski met with Ansari at the Ghost Island Media recording studio in March to discuss innovation in the auto industry, smart approaches to the Taiwan market, and the importance of family. An abridged version of their conversation follows. Listen to the full interview on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. 

You’ve studied in Sweden, France, Germany, and Spain. How did this diverse educational experience impact your career? 

Aside from gaining language proficiency, studying in each of these countries deepened my understanding of how to find the pulse of a community and synchronize it with my own cultural background.  

Swedish people are friendly but quite shy, especially in the northern part where I was studying. It took me some time to understand that the more you speak to people there, the more they open up. The experience actually prepared me to connect with the market in Taiwan, since my Taiwanese colleagues have a similar need for time together before interactions bloom. 

I speak English, French, German, Spanish, and Hindi, and I find it extremely helpful in building better connections. When I talk to French dealers or importers, I speak with them in French. They appreciate that someone from headquarters is speaking with them in their native language. My Chinese is not good, but I’m putting in every effort with the help of my kids to improve. 

How did you get started in the automotive industry? 

It was a bit of a coincidence. I studied European business, and after completing my studies, I started working with a Dutch health food manufacturer. I quickly realized that wasn’t my cup of tea, so I applied to four different roles, one of which was in the auto industry for Audi. The reason I applied wasn’t that I was sure I had the skill set to do it, but rather because it was my passion. They reached out before the others got back to me, and I haven’t looked back since. 

What skills does someone need to be successful in your industry? 

You need an open and positive mindset and the willingness and eagerness to learn. Technical know-how and an in-depth knowledge base are things you can pick up on the job, so you don’t need to worry about not being an auto professional to get started. But you can’t teach someone to be optimistic, roll up their sleeves, or be hungry to implement things and transform the business. 

You also don’t necessarily have to be a high performer to have a satisfying career. People who perform the basic tasks are also needed for the continuity and stability of the business. Having a good mix of talent is important to us at Audi and Volkswagen, so I encourage anyone with interest to apply.  

We especially hope that female candidates aren’t discouraged by an industry typically regarded as dominated by men. At Volkswagen, we have a female entrepreneur award to celebrate innovative employees. Last year we also hosted a female hackathon for female coders, and the winner is now working on a project with us.  

Have you had any mentors in your career? What lessons did they teach you about doing business? 

I haven’t had a mentor, per se, but my brother has consistently been an excellent advisor to me. My mom has been a great inspiration to me as well. She was a businesswoman and entrepreneur when we were growing up. On top of raising a family, she navigated being a minority in Germany and her industry. Having her in my life from a young age and witnessing her achievements made charting the professional journey feel natural to me, a path that isn’t always so for others. 

She inspired me to believe in and advocate for diversity in an organization. Now, with around 40% female representation, we’re doing pretty well for an automotive company. But we will continue to foster an environment where everyone can find their place and flourish. 

You’re an active member of several business organizations in Taiwan. How important are trade organizations such as AmCham to improving the business environment? 

Organizations like AmCham have a solid reputation and are considered important stakeholders by the Taiwan government. These organizations are doing a great job bringing in many people with knowledge of different markets or policies to make meaningful changes. As a company and industry representative, I really feel that the government listens to us.  

The automotive industry is undergoing a transformation toward electric vehicles and assisted driving technologies. What can we expect from Audi and Volkswagen Group over the next few years? 

This year we launched a campaign called “Electrify Taiwan.” We’re committed to helping Taiwan achieve its goal of having electric vehicles hold a 100% market share by 2040 by supplying EVs across all our brands, including Audi. To accelerate sustainable development, Volkswagen plans to bring only electric cars to Taiwan by 2029. We’re also adding to the growing number of charging stations, so consumers can feel secure knowing their EVs won’t run out of power. 

We’re also making massive moves in digitalization. The myAudi and myVW apps generate reports on the health status of your car, with a history of your past road trips, times you had harsh braking or acceleration, and an option to compare your driving habits with other drivers. A service booking can be made directly in-app with the manufacturer for any issues.  

For our EV customers, the app is a gateway to charge at more than 500 locations across Taiwan. 

Before Taiwan, you were based in India, an important trade partner. What makes India and Taiwan exciting places to work in? 

When it comes to the Indian market, it’s very dynamic. You have to make quick decisions with high business intelligence based on quite a lot of data. The market and economy are so fast paced that you can’t afford to waste time when making decisions. I love speed and transformation, since it makes you prioritize the things you want to implement before the opportunity passes. 

In Taiwan, my appreciation for the value of family and culture has deepened. The Taiwanese emphasis on these values closely aligns with the Indian importance placed on family values and tradition. The pace in Taiwan is considerably slower than in India, and it teaches you to be more patient with certain topics. I always compare it with driving a car – if something gets smaller in the rear-view mirror, you must step on the brake, otherwise you lose what’s behind you.  

Your previous positions have had a sales focus. How does your background in sales influence the way you manage teams? 

Sales experience ingrains in you the skill to tactfully navigate the pushes and pulls of a conversation or negotiation. Knowing when to speak up, hold back, raise an opinion, and ask questions is an art learned in sales. It’s also about being able to sell people what your vision is and where you want to go with them. If you can’t communicate your direction, then people get lost in translation and even irritated as to why you would do something. 

You’ve been featured in Elle, Vogue, and GQ magazines. What role does fashion play in your life? Is having a sense of style an advantage for someone in your industry? 

I’ve always liked the fashion industry. In 2001, I interned with Hugo Boss in New York, and I even wrote my master’s thesis on Hugo Boss in Germany. Matching colors, mixing different elements, and making a statement are the fundamentals shaping my style. 

Audi customers tend to be younger and more focused on fashion, lifestyle, and sports. Because I represent this brand, a fashion focus makes it easier to address that target group. As a progressive company, we appeal to all ages across our four brands, but in the automotive industry, it helps to position yourself younger. 

What do you do when you’re off the clock? 

I love spending time with my kids. Our Saturday morning ritual is going outside to play soccer, even if it’s raining a bit. Traveling and going out together is another thing we enjoy. Our most recent trip was to Vietnam during the Lunar New Year, and our next will be to Japan, where I really hope to see the cherry blossoms. 

We’re very privileged to live in Taiwan and have such a unique combination of big-city life, parks, and greenery. The fact that it’s a very safe environment here is a highlight, especially given how courteous and helpful people are. 

I always like to mention this small example – when you ask someone for directions, people usually only tell you the way. But in Taiwan, they will actually accompany you. This probably wouldn’t happen in any other country in the world. These bits about Taiwan make it very easy to settle in.