• Law firm Jones Day to question executive on role, report says
  • Audi is key profit driver for parent Volkswagen group

Audi Chief Rupert Stadler risks being pulled into the emissions crisis that’s engulfed parent Volkswagen AG for the last year amid a report by Der Spiegel that witnesses inside the company alleged the executive had known about the engine manipulation since 2010.

Stadler, who is also a member of the VW group’s board, will be questioned by Jones Day, the law firm hired by the carmaker to help investigate what exactly happened, the German magazine reported, without saying where it got the information. Audi spokesman Juergen de Graeve declined to comment on the report when reached by phone.

Audi has already been linked to the scandal, having produced 85,000 3.0-liter engines that U.S. authorities faulted for non-compliance with diesel emissions. Audi is a key division of Volkswagen because it is its biggest profit contributor. Stadler has run the brand for close to a decade and joined the group’s executive board in 2010. 

Volkswagen was thrown into the deepest crisis in its history after U.S. authorities revealed last September that more than 500,000 cars were fixed with an illegal device that artificially tampered with emissions readings. The number quickly rose to 11 million worldwide, leading to record fines for the carmaker and forcing the company into its biggest-ever recall.

Stadler’s previous boss at Audi, Martin Winterkorn, went on to run the entire group, and resigned days after the scandal broke into the open. Other key personnel who were forced out include Audi development chief Ulrich Hackenberg, who was replaced by Stefan Knirsch.

Knirsch himself will be relieved of his duties and placed on leave in the coming week over diesel emissions disclosures, Bild am Sonntag reported on Sept. 18, without saying where it got the information. According to the report, investigations by Jones Day showed that Knirsch knew about cheating software in 3.0-liter diesel vehicles early on and provided a false affidavit. Audi declined to comment on Knirsch’s role or his future at the company.

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