Audi fires head of R&D, Wolfgang Dürheimer

Audi’s highly regarded head of R&D, Wolfgang Dürheimer, has been fired by the German manufacturer, ahead of the revered 24 hour of Le Mans race this weekend. The story was broken by German magazine Der Spiegel and has been corroborated by several high-ranking Volkswagen Group sources.

Dürheimer had been appointed Audi’s R&D boss in September 2012 following a management shakeup within the Volkswagen Group in mid-2012. Prior to then, he had served as the head for Bentley, restructuring the brand and spearheading their effort to bring an SUV to the market. He has also held the same position at Bugatti, and was formerly the development chief at Porsche (where he is credited with helping get the original Cayenne into production, ushering in a new era of profitability for the company).

But at Audi, a lot of his decisions did not go down well with VW Group CEO Martin Winterkorn, leading to personal tension between the two. He reportedly quickly put a stop to costly projects such as the R8 E-Tron and the rotary range-extender engine for the A1 E-Tron, and shuffled the reporting structure within the brand’s design department. Winterkorn strongly disapproved of Dürheimer’s conservative E-mobility strategy, and apparently disagreed with Dürheimer several times on the styling direction for the brand as well.

Dürheimer’s future within the Volkswagen Group is unclear at this time, and his position at Audi will currently be filled by the Group’s R&D chief, Ulrich Hackenberg.

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