Knirsch resigned in September after an enquiry into his involvement in the Volkswagen emissions scandal led to his suspension. He had held his role at the helm of Audi’s R&D department for only nine months.
Mertens had worked at Volvo since 2011, after moving from Jaguar Land Rover, where he was head of corporate quality as well as having a seat on its board of management. German-born Mertens masterminded Volvo’s current four-cylinder strategy, so he may well be a driving force behind Audi’s low and zero-emissions cars in the future.
Sources suggest that Audi’s reasoning for an appointment from outside of the Volkswagen Group was to ensure that Knirsch’s replacement was untouched by the dieselgate emissions scandal.
Audi CEO Rupert Stadler said: “Peter Mertens has exceptionally broad technical and international experience in the automotive industry. These are ideal qualifications for him to make further progress with the Technical Development division at Audi.”