#Dieselgate: Hackenberg in the crosshairs, engineers talk

Hackenberg - Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt

Volkswagen’s feared internal morals police, the “Revision,” has first confessions, Bild am Sonntag (German, paywall) reports. According to the paper and the confessing engineers, the cheater software was first installed in 2008. On who’s orders remains unclear, however, various Volkswagen engineers fingered Ulrich Hackenberg, who was VW R&D chief at the time.

In 2008, the EA189 diesel engine was being readied for series production. According to the report, Volkswagen powertrain engineers tried to keep the motor within permissible emission parameters while keeping the cost down. They hit a wall. It was either cheat, or scrap the EA189 project. Backs against the wall, it was decided to cheat.

Who felled the final decision remains murky, says the report. However, a number of engineers accused Hackenberg during questioning, who either knew of the cheating, or even initiated it.

Der Spiegel describes a well-known culture of vorauseilender Gehorsam – anticipatory obedience – at VW: “In that system, one isn’t obedient – and worthy of being promoted –  if one simply follows orders. You obey by not having to have explained what the guys on top desire.”  Volkswagen insiders talk of a terror regime in many departments of the company, especially in the sales department of Christian Klinger, who quietly left the company together with Winterkorn. A sordid internal joke likened Volkswagen to a “North Korea without the labor camps.”

Hackenberg, along with two other high-ranking Volkswagen engineers Heinz-Jakob Neusser and Wolfgang Hatz, was furloughed last week, a matter Volkswagen PR is still trying to keep under wraps.

According to the paper, Volkswagen used two pieces of software for the cheat. The 2 liter diesel engines used in North America were manipulated using Bosch code. The smaller 1.6 liter variant used software by supplier Continental, says the report. The smaller engine uses computers, pumps and fuel injector supplied by Conti. Conti spokesman Felix Gress denied any involvement : “Our software could not manipulate emission readings,” the spokesman said, adding that VW may have deployed the chameleon-coded on their own.

P.S.: Interesting to follow where this and prior reports come from. The small Supervisory Board appears to be leaking in all directions, even to the New York Times, which usually doesn’t have the inside track on these things. All the while, Volkswagen’s PR dept. is trying to keep an airtight lid on things, and they do it to a degree that’s laughable.