The moves come in the wake of longtime VW chief executive Martin Winterkorn stepping down on Wednesday. Volkswagen's board said at the time that it expected more personnel changes to follow. Volkswagen's board is scheduled to meet Friday, and Porsche CEO Matthias Muller has reportedly been named as Winterkorn's successor.
The German auto giant was plunged into crisis last Friday when the EPA charged that the company manipulated software in its diesel-powered cars to pass US emissions tests. About 482,000 vehicles in the US are affected, and VW estimates 11 million around the world could have the rigged software. The revelations have prompted outcry from governments and regulatory agencies, and in the US, Volkswagen could face a fine of up to $18 billion.
The departure of Horn, Hackenberg, and Hatz is a stunning downfall for three of the company's top and most visible executives. Horn had led US operations for less than two years, taking over from Jonathan Browning, who was well-respected but failed to reach VW's ambitious sales targets. Before overseeing Audi R&D, Hackenberg was hailed as a visionary for work in developing VW's modular architectures, which allow the company to save time and money by building many vehicles off the same chassis. Hatz had led Porsche R&D since 2011 and also was in charge of engines and transmission development for all of Volkswagen.