Audi: 'progress not just horsepower or speed'

By topgear, 26 April 2021

Audi is hammering away with electric-car intros. We recently drove the sexy and fast e-tron GT. Days later they showed the production Q4 and Q4 Sportback e-tron crossovers. Another week and the world is shown a close-to-real concept version of the A6 e-tron.

What does all this mean for Audi? To find out, Top Gear spoke with the company’s global chief of sales and marketing, Hildegard Wortmann.

She says that this year Audi will launch more EVs than pure-petrol cars. She claims Audi will offer the biggest choice of EVs of any premium manufacturer – remember, it already has the e-tron and e-tron Sportback crossovers too.

“We are at a tipping point. Look at what President Biden is doing, and what will be in the next Five-Year Plan in China.” Of course Audi’s huge commitment to develop those cars happened before those political events.

“It’s a strong commitment. The future is electric. By the end of 2025 we will have 20 EVs, plus more plug-in hybrids.” So what are they?

Beyond the ones we’ve seen, the A6 e-tron family will grow. This uses a joint Audi-Porsche platform called PPE. It can do sedans, hatches and SUVs. Higher up the range will be the family of highly automated cars coming out of the project codenamed Artemis.

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“We have been Vorsprung Durch Technik for 50 years. We are keeping that line. but what is progress now? Not just horsepower or speed. We have to change the company and the brand to be sustainable. Buyers expect the brand to have a stance. It’s a must.”

It’s happening. Audi has carbon-neutral factories and carbon-neutral battery suppliers for the EVs. The VW Group is building six of its own battery plants, and showing a path to carbon-neutral across the company.

So how will it make money on electric cars? She says Audi isn’t a charity and points out it gains hugely by sharing research and platform investment across the VW Group.

“Battery costs are falling. By two years from now, our battery cars will be more profitable than combustion cars. Combustion cars also need huge investment to meet new regulations.” And Audi has to do that, because it can’t stop making petrol cars for some years to come. There’s still demand. “Customers will decide.”

What about the fuel-cell cars Audi has shown? “In my view, there’s no use-case for [FC] private cars. There are too many arguments against, including infrastructure. Audi needs a technical focus.” That’s battery cars then, in the long term.

STORY Paul Horrell

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