Volkswagen Group engineers Ulrich Hackenberg and Wolfgang Hatz are among the engineers suspended as part of the investigation into the automaker’s diesel emissions scandal, The Wall Street Journal reports. Hackenberg currently serves as Audi’s chief engineer, while Hatz is the head of engines and transmissons for all of VW Group.
Hackenberg and Hatz were first put in charge of research and development at Volkswagen after now ousted CEO Martin Winterkorn moved into the position in 2007. The pair considered to have been Winterkorn’s “top aides,” during his prior tenure with Audi, along with Volkswagen development boss Heinz-Jakob Neusser, who has also been suspended.
In 2007, diesel engine cars made up just 5% of the U.S. automotive market. Winterkorn and VW saw this as an opportunity, and made diesel the focus of its American campaign. Hackenberg and Hatz had previously worked together trying to develop a diesel engine that would conform to the U.S.’s strict emissions standards, and were thus put in charge of Volkswagen R&D and engine development.
It’s not entirely clear when the emissions cheating software was installed on VW’s diesel engine for the U.S., however sources familiar to the matter say it was fist tested shortly before the engine went into production in 2008. Because Hatz and Hackenberg were heavily involved in Volkswagen development at the time, it’s widely believed they knew all about the software.