The trained auto mechanics began his career in 1945 as an automotive expert at the Volkswagen plant in Wolfsburg, where he was responsible for the repairs of Army vehicles. From 1958 to 1965 Leiding was plant manager at the Volkswagen plant in Kassel. Following this, he was CEO of Auto Union GmbH in Ingolstadt, where he developed the successful Audi 100. In 1968 he left the Auto Union to take over the chairmanship of Volkswagen do Brasil. In Brazil Leiding was designing the VW SP2, among other things and made within three years for a production increase of 50 percent.
On 1 April 1971 Leiding resigned as CEO of Audi NSU Auto succeeds Gerd Stieler of Heydekampf Union AG. Only six months later, he took over on October 1, 1971 by Kurt Lotz as CEO of VW in Wolfsburg. Not yet three weeks in office, he stopped due to high production costs the Beetle successor known before the series launch EA 266 - a designed by Ferdinand Piëch, Porsche mid-engine car. This proved to be more than three years of development work as lapsed and Leiding continued the development of new models by. Under Leidings guide unsuccessful models like the VW Type 4 and the VW 1600 were dropped and the model program with the VW models Passat (1973 ), Scirocco (Spring 1974), Golf (Autumn 1974) polo (1975) and the two Audi models Audi 80 (1972) and Audi 50 (1974 ) expanded. The success of this tour de force - the development of six new models within a few years - but only became apparent in the years following Leidings farewell.
At the turn of 1974/75 the losses at VW reached the level of 807 million marks, partly owing to the development cost of new models, on the other hand made the first oil crisis for spending restraint. Nevertheless Leiding planned to build a factory in the U.S., which came to the employee representation at VW resistance. Leiding retired in early 1975 from the company - and was succeeded by Toni Schmücker.
Rudolf Leiding was a freeman of the city of São Paulo and holder of the Bavarian Order of Merit. 1976 Honorary Doctorate ( Dr. -Ing. Eh), he was awarded the Technical University of Berlin. The access road to the VW plant in Kassel Baunatal was renamed Dr. Rudolf Leiding Square 2002.