Look for changes in the styling of Audi vehicles, says Ulrich Hackenberg, the German carmaker's new development chief.
In July, less than a year after Audi r&d chief Michael Dick was sacked, Dick's successor, Wolfgang Duerheimer, was abruptly relieved of his duties. He was replaced by Hackenberg, who also is responsible for the entire VW Group's development, and who once led Audi r&d. Hackenberg, 63, spoke with Staff Correspondent Jens Meiners.
Q: What was Audi's condition when you returned to the company as r&d chief?
A: I have returned to a team that is exceptional but that has suffered a bit by a backlog of decisions that needed to be taken. We are not quite there, but things are improving.
Had projects been stopped?
We needed to take a lot of important decisions. I am revisiting everything, including those projects that have been stopped.
You have driven the standardization of architectures in the Volkswagen Group. But you now lead a team of engineers at Audi that takes pride in its independence. How do you reconcile that?
Audi engineers are still quite independent. An Audi must have a unique aura, a unique execution, and it must offer its own power range. There is a focus on Quattro, and there will be RS versions topping almost every vehicle range.
Will platforms be standardized?
The idea of common architectures was actually developed at Audi. I launched it in the early 1990s with the first A4, from which the A6 and the VW Passat were derived.
How will Audi design evolve?
It will surely be changed. It will develop. The face will change. This is a process that is happening right now and that will take a while to materialize. My focus is the next generation of the A8.
What about the integration of Italdesign, the former independent design house now owned by VW Group?
There are more than 56 million vehicles on the road in which Italdesign was involved. That is a rich heritage and knowledge base. We use it to do alternative proposals, not just for Audi.
Achim Badstuebner, Audi's exterior design chief, left to lead Mercedes-Benz exterior design starting on Jan. 1. What happened?
It is well known that the VW Group generates top-notch designers, and it is inevitable that some of them leave at various points. Take J Mays, Laurens van den Acker or Peter Schreyer. But I won't deny that we would have preferred to keep Badstuebner.