Audi’s Rupert Stadler. Picture: SUPPLIED
Audi’s Rupert Stadler. Picture: SUPPLIED

In the latest fallout from the three-year old dieselgate scandal, Volkswagen on Tuesday terminated Audi CEO Rupert Stadler.

Stadler, who has been jailed since June in Germany, was also stripped of his position on VW’s board of management.

"Due to his ongoing pretrial detention, he is unable to fulfill his duties as a member of the board of management and wishes to concentrate on his defense," VW said in a statement.

VW added that it considered Stadler innocent until proven otherwise, and left the door open for his return by saying that his contractual execution depends on the course and outcome of the criminal proceedings.

Sales executive Bram Schot will continue to stand in for Stadler in the interim.

Audi’s supervisory board and that of the parent company, the Volkswagen Group, had been trying to get Stadler out the door ever since German prosecutors took him into custody in June this year, over concerns he would suppress evidence related to dieselgate. The scandal, which broke in 2015, found that the Volkswagen group had cheated regulatory emissions testing by installing ‘defeat’ devices in diesel-engined VW, Audi and Porsche vehicles that reduced polluting emissions only during laboratory testing, but emitted up to 40 times more nitrogen oxide (NOx) in real-world driving.

Stadler had proven unwilling to go, having signed a new five-year contract as Audi Chairman earlier this year, extending his role until 2022. It is not known what payout he received from VW in the termination agreement, but Stadler, who has an estimated personal wealth of US$124 million, had asked for millions more to formally resign.

Stadler, 55, joined Audi in 1990 and was made Chairman in January 2007. He was also appointed to the board of management of Volkswagen AG on 1 January 2010.

His departure is the latest in a purging of senior VW management in the wake of dieselgate. Former VW CEO Martin Winterkorn stepped down shortly after the scandal broke. His replacement, former Porsche chief Mattias Müller, was ousted as CEO earlier this year and replaced by Herbert Diess. Porsche powertrain boss Jörg Kerner also has been arrested by German authorities and Oliver Schmidt, a former VW engineer, was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2017.

The fallout from dieselgate has so far cost VW around $30 billion in fines, buybacks, and fines in Europe and North America.

Daimler to get new CEO

Daimler’s Dieter Zetsche, left, and Ola Källenius. Picture: SUPPLIED
Daimler’s Dieter Zetsche, left, and Ola Källenius. Picture: SUPPLIED

Longtime Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche is getting ready to pass the baton to head of sales and marketing Ola Källenius in 2019.

The supervisory board of Daimler will appoint Källenius for a new term of five years as chair of the board of management of Daimler and head of the Mercedes-Benz Cars division.

Zetsche will stay with the company and join the board of directors after a compulsory two-year cooling-off period.

Subject to a board vote, he is likely to succeed Manfred Bischoff, whose tenure expires in 2021, as chairman. He has played a key role in shaping Daimler since 2006, during which time he oversaw the company’s split from Chrysler as well as surviving the global financial crisis. Mercedes-Benz production and supply chain chief Markus Schäfer will succeed Källenius as head of group research and Mercedes-Benz cars development.

Volkswagen SA’S new brand head

Volkswagen SA’s Martina Biene. Picture: SUPPLIED
Volkswagen SA’s Martina Biene. Picture: SUPPLIED

Martina Biene has been appointed the new head of the Volkswagen brand in SA.

Biene, who was previously the head of product marketing for the Volkswagen brand in Wolfsburg, Germany, has 16 years’ experience in the VW Group, having worked in product planning and product marketing for luxury vehicles and the Volkswagen brand in Germany, Belgium as well as Luxembourg.

Biene replaces Carla Wentzel who has been appointed as the group managing director of Volkswagen Group Ireland, which represents the Volkswagen, Audi, SEAT, Skoda and Volkswagen commercial brands in the Irish market.