By on June 20, 2013



Konnichi wa: Hackenberg at the Tokyo Motor Show 2011, the same day Toyota announced its alliance with BMW

Uh-oh:  Audi is running out of good ideas. Last year, Audi’s  R&D chief Michael Dick  (his real name) was sacked and replaced  by Wolfgang Dürrheimer. Now Dürrheimer has to go. Hackenberg is dispatched to whip Audi in shape.

According to Germany’s Spiegel Magazin, Audi is losing its “Vorsprung durch Technik.” With its Efficient  Dynamics technology for fuel savings, and its CFRP-clad I3 electric vehicle,  BMW is seen as the technology leader. Audi on the other hands appears to suffer an innovation disorder. Even worse: In China,  BMW  was up by 40 percent in 2012, Audi only 30 percent.  Even more unnerving: BMW is in cahoots with Volkswagen’s declared arch-enemy Toyota.

Der Spiegel heard that Dürrheimer wasn’t well liked in Ingolstadt. Big mistake: He suggested, the new Audi A8 could be built using Porsche’s MSB kit – “a nightmare scenario  for Audi engineers,” der Spiegel says.

The situation is so bad that Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn threw his best engineer, Volkswagen R&D chief Ulrich Hackenberg into the fight. He fills the suddenly open position at Audi. Hackenberg spent many years at Audi, where he was in charge of the concept and project management for the Audi 80, A3, A4, A6, A8, TT, A2, cars that set the new successful course for Audi. After stints at Volkswagen and Bentley, he returned to Audi in 2002. In 2007, he joined  Volkswagen’s Board of Management as development chief.

Says an old contact in Wolfsburg: “Hackenberg was great for the group. But bad for Audi: When he left there, things went south.”

He is seen as the father of Volkswagen’s modular strategy. Just the right man to quell an insurrection of Audi engineers.

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23 Comments on “Audi Fires Development Chief – Hackenberg To The Front...”

  • avatar

    I don’t get it. Do Audi engineers dislike using modular architecture for their top models, or is Porsche’s MSB kit not up to the task for a top of the line premium car? OR is it maybe the not-invented-here attitude rearing its ugly head?

  • avatar

    Dick move Audi, dick move…

    I’ll see myself out.

  • avatar

    Dürrheimer has been pooh-poohing Audi’s electric vehicles since he took over, shelving the R8 e-tron and stating that he did not feel that there was a near-term future for all electric vehicles.

    While he may be correct in that assessment my guess is that this runs contrary to the message and image that the big bosses wish to project.

    Bertel – as far as Hackenberg is concerned, are you saying that he was ‘bad for Audi’ in that losing him was bad?

    Also makes me wonder what’s going on with the purported e-quattro drivetrain that is supposedly in the works. For those who haven’t been following that, rumors have been around that the next generation A4 would do away with a propshaft / torsen differential for quattro and shift to using an electric implementation to drive the rear wheels.

    • 0 avatar

      “…rumors have been around that the next generation A4 would do away with a propshaft / torsen differential for quattro and shift to using an electric implementation to drive the rear wheels.”

      Which is fascinating but they’d be rat bastards if they called the result “quattro.”

      • 0 avatar

        Well, remember that “quattro” is simply a brand term for any all wheel drive system. It doesn’t denote a specific technology.

        Audi sells “quattro” A3s, Q3s and TTs using haldex in the transverse configuration, just as it sells “quattro” in the A4, 5, 6, etc. in longitudinal configs.

    • 0 avatar

      ::Also makes me wonder what’s going on with the purported e-quattro drivetrain that is supposedly in the works. For those who haven’t been following that, rumors have been around that the next generation A4 would do away with a propshaft / torsen differential for quattro and shift to using an electric implementation to drive the rear wheels.::

      It was somewhat unclear to me whether that was fully the case — i.e. if they would offer a conventional non-hybrid quattro with the crown gear (not Torsen any more on the latest quattro version) and a hybrid with e-quattro.

  • avatar

    Car and driver has a little bit more on the corporate intrigue surrounding his departure:

  • avatar

    Now, this article was quite a contrast to this week’s “rant” by Audi sycophant Peter M. DeLorenzo (aka the AutoExtremist):

    But not even Audi (or its parent) is immune to failure or bad corporate decisions.

    • 0 avatar

      “Winning at the 24 Hours of Le Mans consistently over a decade is an incredible achievement, but what might be even more impressive is the fact that Audi has now elevated its brand to the point where many consider its position to be at the top of the luxury-performance class, ahead of BMW and Mercedes, which, remarkably enough, was the whole point of the exercise to begin with.”

      Sorry Pete, but no. And that’s coming from a fan and Audi owner. The 3.0T and 4.0T engines can easily take on anything BMW and Mercedes have to offer, that much is true. The 2.0T not quite so much. It’s fine, and better than the MB 250, but BMW has them beat there.

      The rest of the cars though aside from the truly excellent drivetrains need work. Audi styling is in need of a major shakeup. The A5 is much prettier than the blah C-coupe and the upcoming BMW 4 series, but the rest of their cars are too staid, too much alike, and too close to previous generation models. The next Q7 SHOULD be brash and ballsy. The worst possible thing they could do is panic and reskin it to be a larger version of the Q5, which itself is a smaller version of the outgoing Q7.

      Finally, if they want to be seen as true equals in THIS market, AoA MUST make US cars more equivalent to what UK costumers get. That doesn’t mean they necessarily have to offer us the A5 Sportback, but things like seat choices, full leather upgrades etc have to be made available to US customers. If you can get two or three different seats in a BMW 5, you should be able to get two or three different seats in an A6. The Brits can, while we get the cheapest, most basic seat option and that’s it.

      • 0 avatar

        I agree that AoA’s attitude to its customer is a real barrier to further growth. Oh you wanted a manual? A wagon? A diesel? All three? Too bad!

      • 0 avatar

        Audi has said that the new A3 is the last of the ‘old’ design language we’re going to see and that moving forward there will be greater differentiation between models.

        I agree – the ‘same sausage, different length’ school isn’t working any longer, especially with the new A8, which is my least favorite model. The Q5, while a handsome car, is probably their most boring. The A6 is close to being a great design – but it’s missing something. The A7 is terrific with the exception of the front end/headlamp design.
        Design needs a bit of a shakeup. The Q7 should debut the new “Q” language. Next year, I’m guessing at Geneva, we should get the new A4.

        As for options in the US market – I could not agree more that we do get the short end of the stick. Unfortunately, I think that the business case says that Audi has not yet saturated the mainstream buyers – and that is where Audi is focused right now. I don’t think we’re going to see the level of catering that we’d like until Audi hits their 200,000 unit/year target.

        Now that said, Audi did bow to one US demand contrary to the EU market: they gave us a manual transmission S4 while everyone else gets S-Tronic only. But, while Audi giveth, they also taketh away: the upcoming A3 (and S3) sedan will be S-Tronic only. That’s a real shame, and very well see me switching brands this time next year.

        • 0 avatar

          Yeah, I’m a dedicated manual driver. I’ll wait and see what versions of the A4 get a manual, and whether they rethink the decision with the A3/S3. I might end up off-brand next time too.

    • 0 avatar

      Wow. DeLorenzo leaves professionalism at the door. Audi does a number of things very well, but that reads like a North Korean published article about the beloved leader.

      • 0 avatar

        Yes, I know, it’s completely over the top. It’s also a bit suspicious, since just a few years ago DeLorenzo *never* missed an opportunity to deride Ferdinand Piëch, for some reason DeLorenzo seems to have made a 180 degree turnaround since then.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    The Audi Q7 could be a real volume car if it were redesigned to be something along the lines of its Touareg and Cayenne brethren technology-wise. Despite being the same age, it’s not nearly as fresh as the (outgoing) BMW E70, no matter how many LEDs they plaster across its bullnosed face.

    • 0 avatar

      What do you think it’s missing vs. the T-reg and the Cayenne that would drive sales? Every SUV that big was a much higher volume car until the Great Recession.

      The Q7 was probably one of the first cars with adaptive cruise control that worked all the way to 0 mph. I do wonder if Audi will include a similar feature to BMW in the new Q7 — self-driving up to 25 mph.

  • avatar

    Couple of things. First, I have a ’12 Q5 and do not find it “boring”. It’s a SUV and it does its job very well. After 18 ,months and 18k miles, i’ve yet to have an issue. It’s a 2.0T and has no problem leaving all others at the light. I came from a Cayman S that was autox’d and tracked which I dearly miss but needed something for kids and dogs. On top, even with my aggressive driving, I still average 23-24mpg in daily driving. OK. “Same sausage, different length” I’m not so sure I find this objectionable. Back in the 80’s when I brought a BMW 325E, it wasn’t a cheaper BMW. It was just smaller. The same went for Benz. Then both started building cheaper versions and they sucked big time. I like the fact that Audi maintains an equivalent level of quality across the line and the cars are identifiable as Audis. If you want flash, buy a Nissan Juke or Hyundai Veloster… they are “class” cars.

    • 0 avatar

      My g/f bought herself an A5. It’s pretty sweet I got to admit. Looks good on the outside, and on the inside – yet drives well.

      I like domestic muscle personally. I’d absolutely buy a Mustang instead. But let’s face it the Germans and Audi make some fine cars. So its cool they want to do even better. They had their best year ever last year at Audi if I am not mistaken..

      It sounds like the guy that brought back is a ringer so its good news for Audi fans..

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