Fired Audi Engine Developer Kept Secret Document That Could Sink CEO

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
fired audi engine developer kept secret document that could sink ceo

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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4 of 24 comments
  • Sirwired Sirwired on Feb 23, 2017

    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.

    • See 1 previous
    • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Feb 24, 2017

      @Jack Denver You mean like that UN guy who was lifting weights and accidentally dropped a barbell on his throat? That wouldn't work in Germany, they're very good record keepers. The hit man would probably keep a record that he performed the contract so he'd get paid.

  • Shortest Circuit Shortest Circuit on Feb 24, 2017

    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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