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Audi AG’s corporate technology officer (and head of development) Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg is essentially the man in Ingolstadt. At a brand known for engineering and technology, his position is critical to the marque. And, while newly named to this position, Hackenberg is not new to Audi nor its development wing. Quite the opposite actually.
Dr. Hackenberg, also affectionately known as “Hacki” to those inside the halls of Ingolstadt (though perhaps not to his face), recently chatted with Car & Driver’s well-established European contributor for a long talk on many subjects. We’ll summarize the highlights below, because the conversation for the most part includes many interesting bits of information. We’ll first start though with a bit of a schooling when the interviewer asks about brand dilution due to shared platforms.
We’ve noticed in our own interviews that Hackenberg has a dry sense of humor, and that he tends to get a bit of a tell tale smirk on his face when asked a question that maybe should be obvious. Such was the case when the conversation moved to platform sharing. Turns out Dr. Hackenberg was instrumental in the move to implement the B5/C5 range that included the A4, A6 and Volkswagen Passat. We’ll not paraphrase in this case because we found the answer fascinating.
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. It was a common architecture despite having different track widths and wheelbases. In 1998, I moved to VW and developed the Phaeton, based on the A8 D2, and then the Bentley Continental range, which was a mix of Phaeton and A8 D3 architectures. When I moved back to Audi, the common-parts bin had almost been abandoned and the A4 and A6 had moved apart again, resulting in high cost and a loss of synergies. Out of this situation, we launched the modular-longitudinal MLB matrix system. Volkswagen saw this with interest, and when Martin Winterkorn moved to VW, he asked me to implement the same approach there. That is how the MQB came about, albeit on a much larger scale, including production. Now I am back at Audi, where my task is to do the second-generation MLB.
The conversation eventually moves on to many other subjects. Here are a few we found most interesting.
On the Next-Generation A8
The next-generation A8 will not move to the Porsche-developed MSB matrix and will instead remain on the Audi-developed MLB matrix. Hackenberg sights all-wheel drive as a determining factor since quattro is a core competency at Audi and he describes the all-wheel drive system of MSB to be an “add-on” or positioned underneath, which adds weight. Contrarily, he describes all-wheel drive as fully integrated into MLB.
On Audi Design
Audi’s design will evolve. The face will evolve, though carefully so as not to lose the brand’s character. While this sounds fairly aggressive (and likely is), this will take some time to take place. Hackenberg points to the next-generation A8 as the place where the new design language will materialize.
What else do they cover?
We don’t want to give away all of the goods revealed in the story, and there is still plenty more that was covered. This includes everything from planned engine families, talk of rotary engines, the future of the VR6, the future of 12 cylinders, Ducati’s desmodromic valve system technology and possible integration into cars, and finally on autonomous driving. As you might expect, it’s all quite fascinating.
Read the entire conversation at Car & Driver.