Audi board, VW to back under-fire Audi boss: sources

BERLIN/HAMBURG (Reuters) - Audi boss Rupert Stadler is expected to win the backing of top officials at the carmaker and parent company Volkswagen this week, despite criticism of his handling of the group’s emissions scandal, two sources close to the matter said.

Rupert Stadler, CEO of VW's Audi luxury car division, delivers a speech during the opening of a new plant in San Jose Chiapa, in Puebla state, Mexico, September 30, 2016. REUTERS/Imelda Medina

Volkswagen (VW) VOWG_p.DE, Europe's biggest carmaker, admitted in September 2015 to using illegal software to disguise the true level of toxic emissions from diesel engines.

But it wasn’t for another two months that premium brand Audi, the VW group’s biggest profit engine, admitted wrongdoing, after initially saying it was not involved.

That has long led to criticism of Stadler - both among staff, according to sources within the company, and the media.

That criticism intensified earlier this week when a German labor court started hearing a case for wrongful dismissal of a former Audi employee, the sources said. The court on Tuesday barred public disclosure of documents related to the emissions scandal mentioned in the case.

Stadler has not publicly commented on the criticism and could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

Audi declined to comment on Thursday, but has said previously that Stadler testified to VW’s inquiry into the emissions scandal, led by U.S. law firm Jones Day, and that he was not accused of any wrongdoing in the detailed statement published by U.S. authorities following their investigation.

“This public mudslinging not only harms Rupert Stadler as a person, but also the entire company and in the view of the works council, that definitely goes way too far,” a spokesman for the Audi works council told Reuters on Thursday.

Labor representatives occupy half the seats on Audi’s 20-strong supervisory board that appoints and dismisses executives.

Stadler is due to attend a meeting of Audi’s supervisory board from 1430 GMT on Thursday, while VW’s supervisory panel is expected to meet from 1300 GMT on Friday, the sources said.

Reporting by Andreas Cremer and Jan Schwartz; Editing by Maria Sheahan and Mark Potter