Update: Audi has now officially confirmed Wolfgang Durheimer's departure, and named his successor as Dr Ulrich Hackenberg who will take over the role from July 1. Hackenberg's official title will be Board Member for Technical Development at Audi AG, although he will also take responsibility for the technical development of all VW Group brands.
There's no confirmation on Durheimer's new role, or the reasons for his dismissal, only that he 'will move to another position within the VW Group'. Audi CEO Rupert Stadler said: "We thank Wolfgang Durheimer for his dedicated performance."
Wolfgang Durheimer, Audi’s head of technical development, has been asked to step down. A source from within the VW Group confirmed that Durheimer will be leaving “very shortly and abruptly,” and could be replaced by VW’s head of development Dr Ulrich Hackenberg.
Durheimer, who only worked for Audi for the past 10 months, has previously held positions as a member of the board at Porsche and, more recently, as CEO of Bentley and Bugatti. He was also widely tipped to move swiftly through the VW Group upper ranks and eventually replace Dr Martin Winterkorn in the top job.
“He wanted innovation and he wanted to move things forward,” our source explained. “But you need a system in place to achieve that and he realized he may have to change the organization – this wasn’t taken too well by some people.”
In the end it was Durheimer’s strong ambition and pursuit of engineering perfection, whatever the cost, that proved his undoing. According to our source, he wanted to fast track the first-generation A1 e-tron project, fitted with a wankel rotary engine, but was told by Winterkorn it wasn’t financially feasible, which was a source of friction between the two.
Durheimer was open about a number of high-profile projects he was trying to push through. These included a diesel-electric hybrid hypercar, designed to bring technology from Audi's Le Mans winning prototypes directly to the road, and a low-weight, high-performance coupe previewed by the TT ultra quattro concept.
“He is known as an extremely knowledgeable engineer with an eye for detail,” our source revealed. “He does whatever it takes and then tells his findings without thinking about the politics. Perhaps it was this lack of politics that didn’t fit too well within Audi.”
It’s not yet known what Durheimer’s next move will be. There's no official word on his successor either, although in a separate report a German newspaper also named Dr Hackenburg as his likely replacement.