By Robert Zebney, International Business Writer
A German newspaper, Bild recently reported that the chief executive of Volkswagen’s luxury unit Audi, Rupert Stadler, will be replaced in April following his unsuccessful handling of the diesel emissions scandal. VW’s other brand Skoda’s head, Winfried Vahland is seen as the top choice to succeed him. According to the reports, Stadler will remain working for the automaker, though in the lower position of the VW group’s finance chief.
Stadler ran the finance department at Audi for four years before becoming CEO in 2007. He was a former assistant to then-VW chairperson Ferdinand Piech, the head of Volkswagen’s controlling group who was ousted in mid-2016.
Audi chairman Matthias Mueller has said that reports of an imminent ouster of CEO Rupert Stadler are false. In a message to current Audi staff, Mueller, who is also CEO of Volkswagen, said that Audi needed the full concentration of management and workers to overcome its current challenges under Stadler’s “proven leadership.”
“Please pay no attention to the personnel speculation spread by the media, which lacks any foundation,” Mueller said in a message sent to Reuters by email. Porsche SE, through which the billionaire families Porsche and Piech control their majority stake in VW, declined to comment.
The carmaker’s supervisory board last May unanimously voted to extend the contract of Stadler by five years to the end of 2022. Stadler said at the time that Audi would continue its work to address the scandal “until the job is done,” promising to make law and ethics its “ultimate benchmark”.
The Volkswagen group continued to produce and sell “clean diesel” vehicles, which boasted incredible fuel economy throughout the 2000’s and 2010’s. Included in the diesel vehicles are cars made by Volkswagen, Skoda, Porsche, Audi, Seat, and Bentley. Diesel engines are notorious for producing much more harmful emissions than gas counterparts. Feeling pressure from U.S. regulation, The VW Group was forced to cheat the EPA testing system to show lower emissions to allow the continued sale of their popular diesel vehicles.
Audi admitted in November of 2015 that its 3.0-liter V6 diesel engines fitted to its sedans and SUVs were fitted with an auxiliary control device deemed illegal in the United States that allowed its vehicles to evade U.S. emission limits put in place by the Environmental Protection Agency. The device was included in about eighty-thousand vehicles produced by Audi. Audi, being the VW Group’s main profit contributor did not admit immediately to using the illicit emissions control software and waited a full two months after the scandal was uncovered at Volkswagen. The issue has come back into focus as German prosecutors said earlier this month they had searched Audi’s headquarters in Frankfurt and one of its plants, widening their inquiry into the manipulation of diesel emissions tests.
In April of 2017, a U.S. federal judge ordered The Volkswagen Group “to pay a $2.8 billion criminal fine for rigging diesel-powered vehicles to cheat on government emissions tests.”
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, February 27th print edition.
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