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.