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Fired Audi Engine Developer Kept Secret Document that Could Sink CEO

Design Center Audi. Picture courtesy Audi

There’s no end to the layers of intrigue swirling around the upper echelons of Audi.

Last week saw four engineers who worked on the company’s emissions-rigged diesel engines fired, with one of them, former engine development chief Ulrich Weiss, claiming in court that CEO Rupert Stadler was privy to the deception.

Audi fired back with a lawsuit threat against one or more individuals for “baseless accusations” and the revealing of internal documents. Now, the German publication Bild has released information on a potentially damning document that was reportedly locked away in Weiss’s safe since 2015 for exactly this purpose.

Weiss pulled out the document in a German labor court Tuesday to prove he’s the “pawn” his lawyer claims.

According to Bild, the document, dated July 28, 2015 — two months before the diesel emissions scandal broke wide open in the U.S. — could prove that Weiss was simply doing the the bidding of upper management.

In the summer of 2015, Audi’s plan to launch its Q7 SUV in Hong Kong hit a snag. Emissions from the vehicle’s 3.0-liter V6 were far greater than the jurisdiction would allow. (An internal report showing this was also shown in court.) Weiss claims he was ordered by his superiors to approve the use of defeat devices on Hong Kong-bound vehicles in order to side-step environmental regulations.

The document Weiss presented in court is a letter allegedly composed by his superiors, ordering him to cheat. The engineer demanded the order in writing as a way of safeguarding himself.

On that letter is the signature of powertrain development head Thomas Heiduk, who allegedly sought — and gained — approval from CEO Rupert Stadler, former technical development rep Ulrich Hackenberg, quality assurance head Werner Zimmermann and product management boss Michael Neumayer. The note reads that all four board members agreed to the procedure.

Weiss’ lawyer claims that his client placed the letter in his safe, telling his employees, “We will not do it anyway. We’re sitting out.”

Audi placed Weiss on leave in November, 2015, where he remained until last week’s firing. The automaker accuses him of destroying documents as part of the emissions cover-up, as well as keeping executive board members in the dark about the brewing scandal.

[Image: Audi]

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