Audi CEO Rupert Stadler, who is currently in prison awaiting trial in connection with the Volkswagen Dieselgate scandal, has officially left the firm.
The supervisory boards of Volkswagen AG and Audi AG said they had reached an agreement with Stadler to terminate his employment, effective immediately. Stadler, who began working for Audi in 1990, had been chairman of that firm since 2007 and served on the Volkswagen board since 2010.
Stadler was suspended by both firms following his arrest in June in connection with the Dieselgate emissions scandal.
A statement from Volkswagen AG said: “Mr Stadler is leaving the companies with immediate effect and will no longer work for the Volkswagen Group. Mr Stadler is doing so because, due to his ongoing pre-trial detention, he is unable to fulfil his duties as a member of the board of management and wishes to concentrate on his defence. The contractual execution depends on the course and outcome of the criminal proceedings.”
Stadler remains in prison after an appeal to be released was rejected by the Munich court in August. In a statement, the court said: "The chamber emphasises that danger of obstructing justice remains. The release of the accused from custody was therefore rejected.”
Stadler is one of a number of Volkswagen Group executives past and present giving evidence in a Stuttgart court case between September and November.
Stadler will be replaced by former director of purchasing at BMW, Markus Duesmann, according to earlier reports in Germany.
Newly appointed Volkswagen Group board member Duesmann, reports Automobilwoche, will take the helm from 1 January 2019, taking over from interim CEO and sales and marketing boss Abraham Schot. Audi has not commented on the matter.
Announcing Duesmann's appointment to the Volkswagen Group board last week, the group said in a statement: "Mr Duesmann, currently board of management member for purchasing and supplier network at BMW, will take up his new position as soon as he is able to do so. An agreement to this effect has already been signed."
The statement described Duesmann as "one of the automotive industry’s most experienced and distinguished experts", with "a wealth of knowledge in different areas of the industry". Duesmann is said to be an expert in engine development.
Reaction to arrest
The arrest of Stadler earlier this year following an investigation on charges of fraud and misrepresentation as part of the Dieselgate emissions scandal was a "massive shock" for Volkswagen Group boss Herbert Diess, who described his colleague as a "problem solver".
Diess told German newspaper Bild am Sonntag: "The arrest of a CEO of a major car brand – that's never happened before."
Audi temporarily placed Schot at the helm. But a source, speaking to Automotive News Europe, said that the 55-year-old Stadler was not expected to return to the company, regardless of outcome. Since his arrest, Stadler had been placed on leave by Audi.
"Should the accusations of the state prosecutors prove to be true, then it's a clear decision," said Diess.
Reasons for arrest
Stadler’s detention came after German police and members of the Munich public prosecutor's office raided his private residence in Germany.
German media reports suggested evidence obtained in the recent questioning of other former Audi officials link Stadler to possible diesel emissions manipulation from 2012 onwards.
As a reason for Stadler's arrest, the Munich public prosecutor's office cited "evidence suppression". It added: "We cannot comment on the substance of our background in the light of the ongoing investigations. For Mr Stadler, the presumption of innocence continues to apply."
Stadler has continuously denied any wrongdoing relating to the Dieselgate scandal.
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