Audi is set to introduce three all-new electric vehicles by 2020, and the company’s chairman, Rupert Stadler, reckons the market is ready for it.
Audi’s first pure EV will be a “pure electric SUV with a luxury character”, Stadler said when speaking to Australian media at the 2017 Geneva motor show – but he confirmed that it won’t be the most expensive SUV in the company’s line-up.
When asked if the new model would sit above the all-new Q8 flagship, Stadler indicated that wouldn’t be the case.
“No. I don't think so,” he said. “So somehow we stay with both feet on the ground.
“We should talk about positioning and pricing next year,” he said. “But first of all, I can say that I am quite happy that this car will be on the marketplace next year.
“The performance is pretty good. Of course we still have a lot of work to do. The car will be produced in Brussels, so there is one special factory for this high-tech car. And we take time,” he said.
Stadler admitted that the company isn’t yet certain what the electric SUV will be called.
“We're still working on the right nomenclature,” he said. “But being honest, I would like to feel free in terms of positioning that car. And because it is like the word 'quattro' 25 years ago or 30 years ago,” he said, indicating that the company has a way to create a sub-brand, much like VW is doing with its I.D. models and Mercedes-Benz is with its EQ range. Likewise, BMW i.
“It is something very special. It is our first pure battery-electric vehicle with a range of 500 kilometres,” he said. “This needs to be positioned adequately, not pressing a car only within a certain range and with some figures in there.
“It should be a special place because it is now the first one. Of course maybe the next generations, it will properly fit into our standard nomenclature because we see much better electric vehicles in the future,” he said.
And far from being a niche model, it seems clear that Stadler, Audi and the VW Group intends to be aggressive in targeting volume with the new-generation of electric cars.
“I think we should not anymore discuss niche models ... on the one hand it is clear: we need battery-electric vehicles also to comply with the CO2 emission regulations within Europe. There is something similar in US and there is also very tough regulations coming out now in China,” he said. “Anyhow, we will not only be a niche – it cannot be a niche.”
But, in markets that are now selling EVs in decent numbers, there are strong incentives to get buyers to take a punt on the plug. Stadler was asked if incentives will be important to achieve his intended volume, and he rebutted the idea.
“First of all, it's not based on incentives. The decision-making was based on technology, on getting into the lead, because it's not only one car - there will be more in terms of battery-electric vehicles,” he said. “So it is about the positioning of the brand Audi. And, of course, we have to move on with innovations.”
The new EV will be based on an Audi-specific battery platform that won’t be shared with Audi or Volkswagen, and Stadler said the first two EVs the brand will build will come from this platform.
“First of all, it's an independent platform because we decided on that one three years ago to move forward. Of course, when it comes to steering and other things, there is a connectivity with MLB,” he said of the company’s larger car underpinnings. “But in general, it is a new platform or a new generation of technology. Let's put it that way.
“In terms of battery or cell chemistry, we have worked very closely together with Porsche because we know our suppliers,” he said. “We know what we demanded, and this is the big construction, the big block of cost which I have to manage.”
A way of managing that cost is to build a second model. And that’s exactly what’ll happen.
“There will be a second derivative based on that platform structure, which is also pretty nice and sporty,” he said.
When asked if that will also be an SUV, Stadler hinted that a concept model, of whatever vehicle type it may be, will be seen this year.
“We will surprise you hopefully during 2017,” he said.
But Audi won’t only offer large EV models, despite the fact they offer better capability to deal with the weight of battery technology. A third, smaller model is a certainty.
“And then, of course, our mission is in the compact segment to have a battery-electric vehicle. Maybe this one does not need 500km range. Maybe we can work with 400, 450. Maybe there are different packages that we can offer in terms of range, and here we are working very close together with Volkswagen guys on the MEV platform.
“But we will have different shape, a totally different character,” he said.