Audi R&D chief Wolfgang Dürheimer has been replaced just 10 months after taking up his current position. Germany’s Der Spiegel was first to report that Dürheimer was likely to be replaced as Audi’s R&D chief by Volkswagen Group R&D chief Ulrich Hackenberg, and now it is official.
Hackenberg will still head R&D for the Volkswagen Group but from July 1 will also manage the technological progress at Audi.
A reason for the executive shuffle hasn’t been given, though a statement released by Audi said Dürheimer will be retained by the Volkswagen Group.
It’s speculated that the decision was made due to slow progress of the Audi’s advanced projects. Interestingly, Dürheimer originally replaced former Audi R&D chief Michael Dick for a similar reason.
Dürheimer is the man credited with the success of the Porsche Cayenne and was previously tasked with creating that same magic for Bentley and its upcoming SUV when he ran the British brand.
He was moved to Audi last summer to get the automaker’s advanced projects like its e-tron cars out of the prototype phase and into production, but the opposite appears to have happened. Costly projects like the A1 e-tron and R8 e-tron electric cars were stalled at the last minute, with Dürheimer favoring even more advanced projects like a diesel-electric hybrid supercar.
There’s also talk of possible infighting between senior executives, with Dürheimer reportedly changing a lot of the management structure upon arriving at Audi. And if that wasn’t enough, there are also claims that Volkswagen Group CEO Martin Winterkorn has been displeased with Dürheimer's proposals for the design of future Audi models which were said to be a bit too aggressive.
The news comes as quite the shock considering Dürheimer’s past successes with the Volkswagen Group. He started out his career at BMW in the 1980s before moving to Porsche in the late 1990s where he helped the company transform from being just a niche sports car manufacturer to a major luxury brand. He has a straight-talking style that is sure to have vexed others but it no doubt helped him to achieve many of his goals. Ulrich Hackenberg