Audi R&D chief steps down amid emissions cheating scandal

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Ulrich Hackenberg

Ulrich Hackenberg

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Audi R&D boss Ulrich Hackenberg has announced his resignation amid the automaker’s emissions cheating scandal where a number of Audi models, including some here in the United States, were fitted with a device to hide the true level of their emissions from regulators. Hackenberg, one of eight executives to be suspended after the cheating was discovered, is the second high-profile Volkswagen Group executive to step down amid the scandal, following the previous resignation of Martin Winterkorn from the role of group CEO.

Hackenberg joined Audi in 1985 as head of concept development and was influential in the gestation of a number of key models including the A4, A8 and TT. He was also in charge of a number of projects concerning the entire VW Group. For example, he led development of the automaker’s key modular platforms as well as the 261-mpg VW XL1. He was also influential in getting the VW brand to compete in the World Rally Championship, which it now dominates.

“Above all, the modular toolkit system is inseparably connected with the name of Ulrich Hackenberg,” VW Group CEO Matthias Müller said in a statement. “He had that idea already in the early nineties at Audi—today, the entire group profits from it.”

Replacing Hackenberg will be Stefan Knirsch, who currently heads Audi’s powertrain department. Knirsch will start his new role on January 1, 2016.

Stefan Knirsch

Stefan Knirsch

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Knirsch joined Audi’s powertrain department as a young engineer in 1990. In 1996, he moved to Porsche as a project manager where he worked as head of base engine development. He later served as head of aftersales at Porsche, and eventually headed corporate quality at the sports car marque. In 2013 he returned to Audi’s powertrain department.

“Stefan Knirsch has a broad experience of the automotive industry, and not only from the perspective of a car manufacturer, but also of a supplier,” Müller said in a separate statement. “These are excellent qualifications for his new task.”

Separately, it has also been confirmed that Müller will serve as Audi’s new chairman. He replaces Berthold Huber who will continue as deputy chairman. Rupert Stadler remains CEO of Audi.

To view our past coverage on the VW Group's emissions cheating scandal, head to our Volkswagen news hub.

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