Did You Know Wolfgang Hatz, Father of the Porsche 918 Spyder and 919 Hybrid, Is Still in Jail?
The former Porsche R&D chief was arrested last September as part of the Dieselgate investigation. Six months later, he’s still in custody.
On Wednesday morning, the automotive world lit up with yet another round of breaking news in Volkswagen's still-growing Dieselgate scandal: 10 locations connected to former and current Porsche employees had just raided by German authorities as part of the diesel emissions cheating case. But while investigators continue to dig into the width of the widespread pollution fraud, other people caught up in the scandal earlier on remain in a state of limbo. One example: Former Porsche research and development chief Wolfgang Hatz, the driving force behind such modern-day icons as the 918 Spyder hypercar and the Le Mans-winning 919 Hybrid LMP1 race car, is still in jail more than six months after his Dieselgate-related arrest.
Hatz, as you may recall, was originally taken into custody in late September 2017, with prosecutors reportedly looking to find out what he knew about the cheating scandal. While he had since resigned from the VW Group at the time of his arrest, Hatz served as Volkswagen's chief of engine development and Porsche's R&D director for several years prior to his departure from the company. The first German citizen arrested as part of the scandal, he was denied bail at the time—and, as it turns out, he's been cooling his heels in a jail cell for the last half-year as a result.
"I can confirm that Mr. Hatz has been arrested in September 2017 and that he still is in custody," Karun Jung, deputy spokeswoman for the Munich public prosecutor's office, told The Drive via email.
Hatz's attorneys attempted to have bail set for their client at €3 million, according to research by NDR, WDR, and "Süddeutsche Zeitung," while also offering to have Hatz surrender his passport and agree to remain in Germany and check in with police regularly. The Munich Regional Court rejected the deal, according to German broadcaster ARD.
Jung said Hatz remains in custody in a jail facility, and he may be there for a while. "There is no date yet for an eventual trial of Mr Hatz," Jung said, adding that the investigation is ongoing, and formal accusations have not been brought to court yet.
"This happens when there is a formal reason," she said, when asked why he remains in jail while still under investigation but before a trial date has been locked in. "For example, [when there is] the danger that the person may leave the country or that the person tries to influence witnesses or else."
The Drive was unable to contact Hatz or his lawyer for this story.
Before being sucked into the reputation-killing maelstrom of Dieselgate, Hatz had a long career helping create internal-combustion magnificence for German carmakers. Starting out at BMW in 1983, he served as an experimental engineer at the company's engine development department for several years, including work on the BMW M3's powerplant, according to Motorkick. In 1989, he moved to Porsche to work on the company's Formula 1 team development until 1993, when he left the company to work for a commercial vehicle brake manufacturer; after bouncing from there to Opel and then Fiat, he returned to the greater VW Group in 2001, when he joined Audi as head of engine development. He transitioned to the same position at Volkswagen in 2007, then in 2011, added the Porsche R&D job to his list of responsibilities. While at Porsche, he helped push the carmaker towards its now-seemingly-obvious future of electric and hybridized cars; in addition to helping launch the plug-in hybrid 918 Spyder, he spearheaded Porsche's return to Le Mans with the 919 Hybrid, and played what the automaker described as "a very significant role" in the creation of the all-electric Mission E.
It was his close relationship with former VW CEO Martin Winterkorn that, in part, helped Hatz clamber up the VW Group ladder so successfully—but that same close-knit connection may have played a role in his eventual departure and subsequent arrest. Winterkorn resigned from his post shortly after the Dieselgate scandal broke in 2015; Hatz was sidelined by the company's management soon thereafter, being suspended for several months before he formally left the company in May 2016.
While Hatz may be waiting to find out his fate in Munich, he's also facing allegations swirling up from another hemisphere. According to South African police files obtained by German tabloid Bild and written about this March, Hatz reportedly raced over a red light at a construction site while driving with then-CEO of Porsche (and current VW Group CEO) Matthias Müller in a silver Porsche in February 2013, forcing two trucks off the road and injuring seven people before leaving the scene. Porsche and VW spokespeople told German newspaper Spielgel that Hatz had indeed been in an accident that day, but that a lawyer said there was no investigation into Hatz as a result.