MUNICH -- Audi's supervisory board appointed Volkswagen Group CEO Matthias Mueller as chairman to replace Martin Winterkorn and Stefan Knirsch as development chief to succeed Ulrich Hackenberg.
Hackenberg was suspended two months ago together with two other executives closely associated with the development of the diesel engine at the center of VW Group's emissions rigging scandal.
Hackenberg has left the company by "mutual agreement," Audi said in a statement released after a supervisory board meeting Thursday. Knirsch, who is currently head of engine development, will take Hackenberg's role on Jan. 1, Audi said in a separate statement.
Hackenberg, 65, was suspended by Audi's parent, VW Group, in September, along with VW brand r&d boss Heinz-Jakob Neusser and Porsche development head Wolfgang Hatz.
The suspensions came after VW Group admitted that 11 million vehicles fitted with 1.2-, 1.6- and 2.0-liter diesel engines from its EA 189 family and sold worldwide by the VW, Audi, Skoda and Seat brands had rigged software. The three executives denied they knew anything about the cheat software, reports said at the time.
In a separate development, Audi admitted two weeks ago that its 3.0-liter V-6 diesel engine was fitted with emissions-control software deemed as illegal in the U.S. The V-6 diesel was designed and built by Audi at its factory in Neckarsulm, Germany, and used in about 85,000 premium models sold by the VW, Audi and Porsche brands in model years 2009 through 2016.
Hackenberg was a key player in VW Group product strategy for more than a quarter century. He developed the automaker's modular platform strategy, first at Audi, then later extending the system to underpin models at VW Group brands. "He had that idea already in the early '90s at Audi. Today, the entire Group profits from it,” Mueller said in a statement.
Mueller was named chairman of Audi's supervisory board on Thursday to replace Winterkorn who resigned as Audi chairman last month, further scaling back his ties with VW Group after he quit as CEO of VW Group in September.
The Audi board also picked Julia Kuhn Piech and Josef Ahorner, from the families that control Volkswagen, as new board members to replace former VW Chairman Ferdinand Piech and his wife Ursula, who resigned earlier this year.