Engineer Suspected

Dieselgate a Porsche Problem Too?

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A senior engineer at Audi who now works for Porsche received an email mentioning the emissions-cheating software in 2007. Source: DPA.

VW sports car subsidiary Porsche has largely remained immune to the Dieselgate bug — until now.

According to a report in Bild am Sonntag newspaper, Jörg Kerner, Porsche’s head of powertrain development, is mentioned in emails which describe the software manipulation at VW and Audi.

Mr. Kerner, a protégé of Volkswagen chief and former Porsche CEO Matthias Müller, was one of the recipients of an email about the “acoustic function,” as the cheat software was referred to internally. The email was sent by a Bosch employee to a dozen people at Volkswagen and Audi in February 2007.

“Audi wants to deactivate the function and hide it (but not uninstall it in order to be able to activate it if necessary),” the email said.

Mr. Kerner was responsible for software and functional development for engine electronics at Audi between 2004 and 2009. According to the media report, he became aware of the illicit software’s existence because of his role.

During those years, Mr. Kerner also worked closely with Mr. Müller, who then was in charge of the Audi model lines. In October 2010, Mr. Müller was made CEO of Porsche. Less than a year later, Mr. Kerner also switched to VW’s sports car unit.

Shortly after the Dieselgate scandal broke a year and a half ago, Mr. Müller replaced Martin Winterkorn as Volkswagen’s new chief executive. The new CEO tasked Mr. Kerner with an investigation into the practices at Audi which gave rise to the use of illegal software.

The diesel emissions scandal has cost Volkswagen €22 billion ($24 billion) in fines so far, but investigations continue as to who knew what and when.

Pressure has piled on VW’s premium subsidiary Audi in recent weeks. Investigators raided the carmaker’s headquarters in Ingolstadt less than two weeks ago.

A Porsche spokesperson said Sunday that Mr. Kerner had only received the emails in copy. “The rest of the email exchange shows that the employee had nothing to do with the issue,” the company said.

 

Stefan Menzel is a reporter at Handelsblatt. To reach the author: menzel@handelsblatt.com.

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