Tightening emissions requirements and looming fossil fuel bans aren't the main driver behind Audi's push toward electric power, with the brand instead arguing a desire to meet customer demand is central to its electrified rollout.
Speaking to media at the e-tron launch in San Francisco, head of product marketing at Audi, Fermin Soniera Santos, said regulation changes have pushed the agenda of EVs forward, but Audi's move to electric cars is "absolutely market driven".
“Of course, regulations are pushing the whole industry and electrification is a solution for the whole industry, and maybe the speed is a little faster [than market demand, but] the customer will not care about the regulations, they will buy the car if it's competitive and a good deal,” Santos said.
With likely moves in places like California (where the e-tron was launched this week) and European cities to mandate a certain percentage of electric car sales in the near future, companies like Audi, as part of the Volkswagen Group, have been forced to respond. But the desire for electric cars is also coming from customers, according to Audi.
“It has to be market driven, we are very confident that the e-tron will satisfy all customer expectations and also from the sales point. At Audi, we don’t make EVs because of CO2 [regulations], we make EVs because the customer wants to buy it," Santos explained, before going on to say the e-tron has mass appeal and isn’t being sold as a niche car, but instead as a regular model in the Audi line-up.
“It must be a main model, its developed to not be a niche model just for early adopters.”
With the brand still expecting at least two-thirds of its sales to come from conventional internal combustion engine vehicles by 2025, the projected uptake of EVs is still up for debate.
“We don’t know exactly,” Santos said, asked when EV sales will overtake traditional internal-combustion vehicles.
“Nobody discusses if it’s going to work, it’s just how fast [before it works]. The markets like US and China are far more developed for electric than other markets, even Europe," he elaborated.
"I think it’s going to happen faster than we can imagine [because] what we know is that customers that drive an EV don’t want to change back. We [just] need to get to critical mass."
Without Tesla numbers, electric vehicles currently hold about 0.1 per cent of total Australian market share, giving them a rather insignificant place.
From January to August this year, only 895 electric vehicles have been sold across all segments (including commercial) out of a total 786,294 vehicles. We suspect even with Tesla’s projected sales, it would only drag that figure to around 0.25 per cent.