VW's suspended top engineer Hackenberg quits after 30 years

Mueller appointed chairman of Audi

More than two months after he was suspended by VW’s supervisory board, Ulrich Hackenberg, pictured, has left Audi and will be replaced by Stefan Knirsch, head of engine development, Audi said.

Photo credit: BLOOMBERG

December 3, 2015 – 5:02 pm ET — UPDATED: 12/3/15 6:23 pm ET – adds details

BERLIN (Reuters) — Audi appointed a new chairman and a new development chief as Volkswagen’s flagship luxury division struggles to recover from an emissions scandal.

Audi admitted two weeks ago that its 3.0 liter V-6 diesel engine was fitted with emissions-control software, an illegal practice in the United States where the scandal has already engulfed its corporate parent VW and the mass-market VW brand.

Audi’s supervisory board on Thursday appointed VW’s new CEO, Matthias Mueller, as chairman, replacing long-time VW CEO Martin Winterkorn, who vacated the post in November in the wake of the scandal that also forced him out as VW group CEO.

The board also tapped Stephan Knirsch, head of engine development at Audi, to succeed Ulrich Hackenberg, the top engineer at Audi and the VW group. Hackenberg was suspended two months ago together with two other executives closely associated with the development of the VW engine at the center of the scandal, codenamed EA 189.

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

U.S. law firm Jones Day, which has been leading external investigations of the scandal at Wolfsburg-based VW, has been tasked to clear up the manipulations at Audi, the works council said in a statement.

The V-6 diesel engine was designed and assembled by Audi at its Neckarsulm factory in Germany, and used in about 85,000 premium models sold by the VW, Audi and Porsche brands in model years 2009-16.

The admission from Audi, which contributes about 40 percent to VW group profit, has raised the pressure on CEO Rupert Stadler, a 25-year VW group veteran who has led the Ingolstadt-based automaker for nine years.

After being questioned by the Audi board on Thursday, Stadler will also need to convince VW’s 20-member controlling panel at a meeting on Dec. 9 to discuss the state of investigations. VW plans to publish intermediate results of its probe into the scandal next week.

“We pushed for action in the interest of workers and that’s exactly what’s happening now,” Audi labor boss Peter Mosch, a member of the supervisory board said. “Further consequences need to be drawn now to ensure that this won’t happen again.”Volkswagen’s suspended top engineer, Ulrich Hackenberg, has left the German group after 30 years, luxury-car division Audi said on Thursday, as VW pushes ahead with the search for culprits in its diesel emissions scandal.

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