By on June 21, 2013

Hackenberg - Picture courtesy auto-clever.de

Volkswagen  today confirmed yesterday’s story, broken by Spiegel Magazine, that Volkswagen development chief Ulrich Hackenberg is taking the reins of Audi’s R&D.  The ostensibly lateral move includes a promotion:  Hackenberg  also becomes chief R&D coordinator of the Volkswagen Group.

Hackenberg replaces luckless Wolfgang Dürheimer.  He will move to another, unspecified, “ function within the Group,” and  will “remain General Representative of the Volkswagen Group responsible for motorsport.” I guess he’s working on his resume.

Hackenberg’s job at Volkswagen will be taken over  by Heinz-Jakob Neusser ,  a consummate engine man.

Hackenberg will not be capo di tutti capi in the Volkswagen Group though. That job is reserved for Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn, who is not only chief, but also the chief engineer.

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4 Comments on “It’s Official: Hackenberg Chief Audi Engineer...”


  • avatar
    hreardon

    Nothing like a little boardroom intrigue. Some additional details that have been leaking out speculate that Mssrs. Winterkorn and Durheimer did not share a very cordial relationship.

    Then again, I understand that Michael Dick was a good friend of Winterkorn but that didn’t seem to benefit him very much.

    In the end, results are what matters.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    Results? Durheimer took the job last September. He really didn’t have time to do anything but raise the hackles of the wrong people.

  • avatar
    Sundowner

    seriously, this can’t be that bad.
    Audi has been treading water since 2009 and it’s time someone did something about it. Audi is no longer the leader they once were, the technology they offer in their cars is, at this point, outdated. You can get more advanced baubles in a Kia, and LED headlights, the stuff of $4000 option packages on A6’s and A8’s, are coming to a Corolla near you. Lane Depature system? you can get that on a Focus.

    And powertrain? Audi A4’s are running the latest tweak of an antique 2.0L. Yes, I know that it’s a ‘new’ motor, but Audi has been running some version of the 2.0T since 2006, and unless you’re one of the deep Audi initiate, it’s same motor that makes a good bit less power than the latest offerings from BMW, M-B, Ford, and even GM. IT’s tiem for a change when a $50k+ executive’s A4 gets stomped at the traffic light by his secretary’s V6 Camry.

    Even assuming that all other things are competitive, Audi has their house in complete disorder: the Q5 is available with three different motors. The A4 is available with one. The S4 is comically bland and arguably underpowered vs. other offerings such as the SQ5. Where is the ‘wow’ with that car? I can’t see it. The Allroad is a disaster. IT brings almost nothing new to the table. People who want a car with buy and A4, at a lesser cost. People who want an SUV will buy the Q5, also at a lesser cost. Maybe if they had placed the Allroad as a dirt road counterpart to the S4, it would at least make some sense, but they went and put the cheapest drivetrain in the most expensive car they offer in the segment. madness.

    And alternate drivetrains? Do you think Audi wouldn’t have had a hissy fit in an open letter to Tesle if Tesla didn’t sell pretty much as many Model S’s as Audi sells A8’s and A7’s combined over the same time period?

    Have you seen the latest Audi website? the car builder is a joke, and they stripped all the individual options out. where’s the ‘bespoke’ appeal that premium cars used to bring to the table? Buyers might as well go to the VW lot and pick whatever off the lot.

    I’d also add that the A6/A4/A3 are nigh indistinguishable, but I understand that’s under review.

    Add it all up, and you have a car company making sales based on current inertia, but ultimately in serious long term trouble.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      Sundowner,

      Some fair points there, but I think you’re missing the big picture. Audi is trying to build not just cars but a brand.

      The past five years have been pretty big for Audi, not just in terms of sales, but in technology. MLB is probably the most important because of the flexibility it has provided. It completely changed everything about how their cars are designed, packaged and assembled. Massive change. With that has come a substantial improvement in overall reliability.

      Second, I think we’ve seen a move toward the Intel model for product releases. By that I mean mimicking the “tick-tock” roadmap whereby Intel will release a new processor family, then a year or two later they shrink it, add a few features and tweak it. A few year or two later they introduce a new variant, then a year or two later, shrink that and add a few new features. This method of design and fabrication has essentially saved Intel and brought about some of the best product they’ve put out in their history.

      Let’s use the ‘antique’ 2.0 you reference. The first generation brought direct injection – and a whole host of bugs. A LOT of bugs. Audi improved upon it in 2008 with the second generation which fixed a whole host of reliability issues, introduced a chain in lieu of belt and improved economy slightly. Now we have the 3rd generation powerplant which can put out substantially more power, more torque, reduce emissions, reduce assembly cost, reduce assembly time, and ostensibly improve reliability even more.

      This is a *bad* thing? The new 2.0TFSI can scale from 210hp up to 300hp in either longitudinal or transverse configurations.

      As for the power – for those of us who are gearheads this may be a concern. But for the broader market it’s a non-issue. Audi knows this and they also know that what people are interested now is:

      1. Fuel economy
      2. Infotainment
      3. Safety

      This is why the new A3 has basically taken all of the techno-gadgets from the A6/7/8 and brought them down to the compact class. Are people going to buy A3s because of the creature comforts or are they demanding a 260hp cruiser? The A4, soon to be replaced with a new model, has been selling nice and steady here in the US with its comparably paltry 210hp 2.0TFSI.

      So my point is this: 2008-2009 brought about a massive overhaul in the way the whole company designs, assembles and sells cars. With that came a bunch of new engines (new 4.0TFSI, TDIs, cylinder deactivation), now we’ve got technology/infotainment trickling down the lineup like never before, more niche models than before (A7, A5 Sportback), hybrid drivetrains, etc. I really wouldn’t call this disarray – it’s a tick-tock cycle like Intel, and my guess is that Durheimer made some big mistakes in the few months that he was there, the biggest of which being that he did not move fast enough.

      Look, clearly Audi knows its market here in the US. While more expensive than a Q5, dealers cannot keep allroads on lots. Not my cup of tea, but someone is buying them. The S4 comprises some 20% of A4 sales, far higher than ever before *and* the US received a bespoke transmission that the Europeans don’t even get any longer (6MT).

      I’m with you on the website, however. They screwed the pooch on that redesign. I get where they’re going with it, but the execution is lacking.


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