By on February 23, 2017

Design Center Audi. Picture courtesy Audi

There’s no end to the layers of intrigue swirling around the upper echelons of Audi.

Last week saw four engineers who worked on the company’s emissions-rigged diesel engines fired, with one of them, former engine development chief Ulrich Weiss, claiming in court that CEO Rupert Stadler was privy to the deception.

Audi fired back with a lawsuit threat against one or more individuals for “baseless accusations” and the revealing of internal documents. Now, the German publication Bild has released information on a potentially damning document that was reportedly locked away in Weiss’s safe since 2015 for exactly this purpose.

Weiss pulled out the document in a German labor court Tuesday to prove he’s the “pawn” his lawyer claims.

According to Bild, the document, dated July 28, 2015 — two months before the diesel emissions scandal broke wide open in the U.S. — could prove that Weiss was simply doing the the bidding of upper management.

In the summer of 2015, Audi’s plan to launch its Q7 SUV in Hong Kong hit a snag. Emissions from the vehicle’s 3.0-liter V6 were far greater than the jurisdiction would allow. (An internal report showing this was also shown in court.) Weiss claims he was ordered by his superiors to approve the use of defeat devices on Hong Kong-bound vehicles in order to side-step environmental regulations.

The document Weiss presented in court is a letter allegedly composed by his superiors, ordering him to cheat. The engineer demanded the order in writing as a way of safeguarding himself.

On that letter is the signature of powertrain development head Thomas Heiduk, who allegedly sought — and gained — approval from CEO Rupert Stadler, former technical development rep Ulrich Hackenberg, quality assurance head Werner Zimmermann and product management boss Michael Neumayer. The note reads that all four board members agreed to the procedure.

Weiss’ lawyer claims that his client placed the letter in his safe, telling his employees, “We will not do it anyway. We’re sitting out.”

Audi placed Weiss on leave in November, 2015, where he remained until last week’s firing. The automaker accuses him of destroying documents as part of the emissions cover-up, as well as keeping executive board members in the dark about the brewing scandal.

[Image: Audi]

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24 Comments on “Fired Audi Engine Developer Kept Secret Document that Could Sink CEO...”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Great move. “Baseless accusations”, my foot.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s a curious charge. Can a “baseless accusation” made in testimony in a court, possibly under oath and possibly in reply to a question, be prosecuted in another court? If so, that’s a VERY unusual court system.

  • avatar
    Corey Lewis

    I would like to point out the gross architecture in that Audi building, and suggest its immediate replacement with something suitably Bauhaus.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    That is pretty hideous. They probably paid off the architect to keep quiet.

  • avatar

    “Befehl ist Befehl” and exhausts… Why does that have a familiar ring to to me?

  • avatar

    I think we all knew there was more to come out on the dieselgate scandal. At least I suspected as much.

  • avatar

    The scandal isn’t new but a CEO being actually held accountable is certainly news.

  • avatar

    “We will not do it anyway. We’re sitting out.” If Audi’s engine development chief and his team had no part in rigging the engine management software, who did? I have difficulty believing he could get away with ignoring a direct order.

    • 0 avatar

      Illegal orders put in writing are very easy to ignore, unless, of course, your management is too stupid to realize what happens if they fire you for ignoring said order.


      • 0 avatar
        Ol Shel

        Wy did any of them agree to put it in writing? I would think they’re savvy enough to know how to avoid incriminating themselves.

        The entire first year of management training is about avoiding accountability.

    • 0 avatar

      This particular case is not in reference to the US or Euro spec vehicles. This also took place after the company had been notified by CARB and EPA that they were under investigation. VW had also already responded with a “fix” to the cars that had supposedly mistakenly been shipped with the incorrect software calibration. The only thing the “fix” did was to make the car run in compliant mode for about twice as long as the CARB 240 sec test.

      So the engineer was smart enough to read the writing on the wall and that is why he asked for the letter, and once he had it safely locked away said “We will not do it anyway. We’re sitting out.”

  • avatar

    I love the whole safe thing…reminds me of that scene in “Clear and Present Danger.”

  • avatar

    Hint to would-be law-breaking Corporate Executives: When an underling asks you to say, in writing: “I would like you, lowly peon, to violate the law”, this is not so the underling has a fond memento of your impressive leadership prowess.

    What on earth was Audi thinking when they thought accusing him of “releasing internal documents” would be a clever litigation strategy. OF COURSE it was going to end up with the release of some additional documents to the general public! Ones GUARANTEED to be embarrassing!

    Maybe he did, in fact, ALSO destroy documents that would incriminate him, but it was foolish, in the extreme, to assume he would not have some a$$-covering stashed away under the proverbial mattress.

    Though they also managed to botch the “hush money” strategy with that compliance lead, so perhaps they are just inept at every level when it comes to corporate malfeasance.

  • avatar
    Shortest Circuit

    As a fellow engineer, I can only attest to this… the first thing that they never teach you in university is to get every friggin’ detail down on paper, and don’t lift a finger unless a superior signed it.

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