Major moves at Audi as VW investigation into emissions scandal rumbles on

Engineer who developed major models from VW Polo to Porsche Macan departs as CEO denies Qatar investors seeking to reduce worker voice on the board

Volkswagen chief executive Matthias Mueller is expected to hold a news conference this week to present results of the company's efforts to clear up the diesel emissions rigging scandal.

Ahead of the announcement it has been confirmed that suspended engineering boss Dr Ulrich Hackenberg has retired.

Dr Hackenberg was one of the first three executives suspended over the Dieselgate crisis, along with Volkswagen Group Development boss Heinz-Jakob Neusser and Porsche's development boss, Wolfgang Hatz. He has denied any knowledge of the crisis that saw Volkswagen Group shares and sales plummet and cheated on NOx emissions on 11 million four-cylinder diesel cars worldwide.

Never thought of as an engine developer, the 65-year-old engineer was the man behind the Audi A2 and developed the modular chassis architecture concepts like the MQB, the MLB and MLB Evo architectures that underpin every Volkswagen larger than the Polo, Audi's A3, A4, A6, A7, Q3, Q5, Q7 and Porsche's Macan and Cayenne, along with various Seats and Skodas.


He joined Audi in 1985 and rose to become head of Volkswagen product development until he was parachuted back into Audi in 2013

His position will be taken on January 1st by Audi's head of engine development, Stephan Knirsch (49) who said in June that he'd be leaving the company to pursue further opportunities. During the Dieselgate engine development, Knirsch was about as far away from the problem as possible, first at Porsche then at supplier Pierburg.

It’s also an interesting move because after having Volkswagen’s powertrain people expose the cash-flow critical brand to Dieselgate, it was Audi’s own engine development that brought the Volkswagen Group new emission problems.

Audi developed and built the 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel engine that is used across its own products, along with Volkswagen’s Touareg and Porsche’s Cayenne.

In stark contrast to the way the Volkswagen brand handled Dieselgate, Audi chief executive Rupert Stadler contradicted Volkswagen's original statement by admitted almost immediately that his investigators had found illegal emission-control software in about 85,000 V6 TDI engines.

"The investigation in making progress. That is a necessary and good sign," Audi deputy chairman Berthold Huber said.

The investigation also brings more heat on to its nine-year CEO Stadler, whose company contributes about 40 per cent of the profit of the entire Volkswagen Group.

Qatar investors

Volkswagen has denied a report saying its chief executive and chairman were urged on Sunday by its third-largest shareholder to reduce the influence of VW’s powerful unions as it battles to overcome its emissions scandal.

Mr Mueller and chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch met with leaders of the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) in Doha on Sunday to discuss the state of investigations into its cheating of emissions tests, as well as VW's new company structure and future business focus, two people familiar with the matter said.

Germany's Bild am Sonntag newspaper, without citing sources, said earlier the QIA would use the meeting to demand a scaling back of the role of VW's works council.

The council, whose representatives hold as many seats on the company's 20-member supervisory board as shareholders, has long wielded great influence at the German company and has headed off cost cuts in the past. "Co-determination (joint decision-making by corporate and labour representatives) and the (role of the) works council were not on the agenda of the talks," said a VW spokesman, who earlier described Mr Mueller's visit to Qatar as communicating with "an important partner."

The QIA, which holds a 17 per cent stake in Europe’s largest automaker, declined to comment, as did VW’s works council. The emissions scandal has wiped billions off VW’s stock market value and Mueller has said the firm will have to make massive cuts to meet a bill which analysts say could top €40 billion for fines, lawsuits and vehicle refits.