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Audi Sacks Product Development Chief

Volkswagen AG’s Audi unit has dismissed Wolfgang Duerheimer, its technical development head, and will replace him with Ulrich Hackenberg, a former Audi engineer who has led development for the VW brand since 2007, Der Spiegelreports.

Duerheimer is a former CEO of VW’s Bentley unit and an ex-Porsche R&D chief. He joined Audi last September in a management shakeup that ousted three top executives, including development chief Michael Dick.

But VW executives soon criticized Duerheimer for halting work on the electric versions of the Audi R8 sports car and A1 small hatchback to cut costs, according to Der Spiegel. The magazine adds that VW CEO Martin Winterkorn also repeatedly disagreed with Duerheimer about new Audi designs.

Hackenberg is considered a Winterkorn ally. He first worked in vehicle development at Audi from 1986 to 1998. He returned in 2002-2007 in a series of more senior development jobs under Winterkorn, who was then the brand’s CEO.

In 2004, Hackenberg also began work on VW Group’s modular platform strategy, starting with body module management. He is credited as an architect of the modular program, which has allowed the company cut costs and development time by increasing the number of models carried by each vehicle architecture.