Porsche Powertrain Boss Arrested in Germany: Report
Jörg Kerner, Porsche’s head of powertrain development, has reportedly been arrested by German authorities for playing an alleged role in Volkswagen Group’s diesel emissions scandal.
Kerner, who sources say is being held on remand due to the potential of being a flight risk, was appointed director of Porsche’s powertrain development division in October 2011. Before that, Kerner worked for supplier Robert Bosch GmbH from 1986 to 2004, after which he oversaw development of engine electronics and software for Audi.
German prosecutors searched 10 locations in Germany this week, Automotive News Europe reports, seeking information on three suspects: a management board member, a higher-up member of Porsche management, and an employee who’s no longer with the automaker.
The German newspaper Sueddeutsche claims the raids drew on information provided to authorities by former Audi engine developer Giovanni Pamio, who was arrested, then released, last year. Michael Steiner, Audi’s research and development chief, is one of the men under investigation, the newspaper states.
Kerner’s tenure at Audi overlaps with the development of “defeat devices” designed to mask illegal levels of emissions from the company’s diesel engines. The scandal, which broke in September 2015, ultimately involved 11 million vehicles worldwide, including half a million in the United States. Kerner also worked closely with Wolfgang Hatz, a top VW Group engineer arrested last year. Like Hatz, Kerner was reportedly a close confidant of recently departed VW Group CEO Matthias Müller.
Müller’s ousting last week led to the appointment of former Volkswagen brand chief Herbert Diess’ as the company’s new CEO.
The list of VW Group executives and managers implicated in the diesel affair is a long one. Kerner’s predecessor at Audi, Heinz-Jakob Neusser, was one of six current or former employees indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice last year. Neusser left his post in 2011 to head up powertrain development for the Volkswagen brand.
In a letter to staff, Porsche CEO Oliver Blume wrote, “We reject these allegations and will do our utmost to clear up the matter.”
A Porsche spokesperson told Agence France-Press, “Blume informed the workforce that the prosecutor of Stuttgart has taken a manager into custody.” While Porsche did not name the arrested manager, German media outlets have reported the suspect’s identity as that of Kerner.
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