Audi CEO risks being drawn into VW scandal, report says
BERLIN -- Audi CEO Rupert Stadler risks being pulled into the emissions crisis that has engulfed parent Volkswagen Group for the last year amid a report by a German weekly magazine that witnesses inside the company alleged the executive had known about the engine manipulation since 2010.
Stadler, who is also a member of VW Group's management board, has been questioned by Jones Day, the law firm hired by the carmaker to help investigate what exactly happened, Der Spiegel reported, without saying where it got the information.
VW CEO Matthias Mueller confirmed on Tuesday that Stadler had been questioned by investigators looking into the company's emissions scandal, but he declined to give further details.
Audi has already been linked to the scandal, having produced 85,000 3.0-liter engines that U.S. authorities faulted for non-compliance with diesel emissions. Audi is a key division of Volkswagen because it is its biggest profit contributor. Stadler has run the brand for close to a decade and joined VW Group's executive board in 2010.
Volkswagen was thrown into the deepest crisis in its history after U.S. authorities revealed last September that more than 500,000 cars were equipped with an illegal device that artificially tampered with emissions readings. The number quickly rose to 11 million vehicle worldwide, leading to record fines for the carmaker and forcing the company into its biggest-ever recall.
Stadler's previous boss at Audi, Martin Winterkorn, went on to run the entire group, and resigned days after the scandal was made public last September. Other key personnel who were forced out include Audi technical development chief Ulrich Hackenberg, who was replaced by Stefan Knirsch.
Knirsch himself will be relieved of his duties and placed on leave in the coming week over diesel emissions disclosures, German newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported on Sept. 18, without saying where it got the information.
According to the report, investigations by Jones Day showed that Knirsch knew about cheating software in 3.0-liter diesel vehicles early on and provided a false affidavit. Audi declined to comment on Knirsch's role or his future at the company.