Audi’s Approach to Electric Vehicles

The Audi RS e-tron GT produces 590 hp, net. Just sayin’. . .

By Gary S. Vasilash

There are 14 vehicles in the Audi of America lineup. The best-selling model during Q1 was the Q5 crossover, with 14,731 units delivered. The vehicle that had the least amount of sales is the R8 sports car, at 148 units. This gives you a sense of the spread from top to bottom, as Audi sold 54,840 vehicles.

What is surprising is how well the e-tron and e-tron Sportback—electric vehicles—did for the brand, with the former accounting for 3,474 units and the latter 850.

Put another way, electric vehicles are a solid contributor to Audi’s overall sales.

The Audi Q4 e-tron. Part of the company’s electric offensive. It plans to have more EV models for sale in the U.S. by the end of 2021 than any other OEM. (Image: Audi)

And that number is likely to do nothing but increase. This summer the e-tron GT electric sports sedan will launch. With a starting priced of $99,990, odds are the numbers will be low. But there will be numbers.

But before the year is out, there will be two more models added to the electric Audi lineup, the Q4 e-tron and the Q4 Sportback e-tron.

Notably, the Q4 e-tron, a compact crossover, will have a starting price of under $45,000. And then there could be incentives and credits that could put people in an electric Audi for much less.

To learn about what Audi is doing in the EV space, on this edition of “Autoline After Hours” we talk with Matt Mostafaei, the Audi e-tron product manager. (The “we” consists of “Autoline’s” John McElroy, Stephanie Brinley of IHS Markit, and me.)

Mostafaei explains that one of the biggest challenges that they face with regard to getting more people to buy an e-tron is a lack of familiarity that they have with EVs. He suggests that once they’ve an understanding of the advantages that can be realized—like plugging in one’s vehicle at night, analogously to plugging in a phone, so as to have a full charge every morning—as well as the driving dynamics that are provided by an EV*, this will change.

While Tesla is certainly the dominant player in the category, and while Mostafaei says that they’d be glad to have Tesla owners or intenders come into Audi dealerships, he maintains that there is a far greater number of potential customers than just those who have gone the Tesla route.

Just think of all of the people who fuel their vehicles with gasoline. That’s a market.

Audi isn’t adding all of those EVs to its lineup just to be au courant.

As Mostafaei puts it, they see where the market is going and they’re going to help drive it forward.

In addition to which, McElroy, Brinley and I discuss a number of other vehicles, electric and otherwise, as well as the benefits OEMs—and consumers—can realize from tech like Ford’s just-introduced BlueCruise hands-free driving technology, and autonomous driving tech that will be shuttling people in Dubai—and which is shuttling pizzas in suburban Houston.

And you can see it all here.

Lichte on e-tron GT Design

When Marc Lichte, head of Audi Design, unveiled the Audi e-tron GT concept at the 2018 LA Auto Show, he described it as “The most beautiful car I have ever drawn.”

Audi RS e-tron GT prototype (Images: Audi)

Lichte even thinks that this vehicle—which will be unveiled in its production version on February 9—will become a new design icon for the brand, answering a question whether that is the case by saying, “Yes, without a doubt.” But he acknowledges, “A car must acquire this reputation on the road—in an overstimulated environment that creates the will to strive for orientation.”

Which presumably means: cars may look great in studios or on turntables at auto shows (remember auto shows?), but you’ve got to get them out in the real world where they exist in relation to other vehicles.

Lichte went on to day: “True design icons have something that is unmistakably clear: For example, it takes only three lines to characterize a VW Beetle or a Porsche 911. They stand for a clear attitude.”

Given that all of the brands are under the Volkswagen Group umbrella, Lichte is undoubtedly well aware of the vehicles like the Beetle and the 911, which are certainly good bars to work to equal or exceed.–gsv