Audi’s stand-in CEO says the company hasn't forgotten about the problems caused by Dieselgate, but argued the company isn't holding its ‘heritage as its destiny’ as it commits billions to the production of electric vehicles.
Speaking last night at the e-tron SUV launch in San Francisco, current Audi CEO, Bram Schot – filling in for former CEO, Rupert Stadler, who's been in German jail for three months over allegations he tried to “obfuscate” the investigation into defeat devices fitted to some diesel Audis – said the brand won't ignore its recent history, but is looking forward to a brighter future.
“[This is] a unique moment in the history of Audi,” Schot said of the brand’s first mass-market electric vehicle.
“And in such a special moment, it’s considered the proper thing to take some time, sit down and reflect – and turn it all off. We know where we come from. We have not forgotten about what happened over the past few years. We have to think backwards from our imagination, instead of forwards from the past," he elaborated.
"Our heritage is not our destiny. It was time for a fundamental change. We needed to improve ourselves – to assume responsibility and become better than ever before.”
Audi says the e-tron represents the beginning of that positive change, which will see it introduce 12 pure-electric models by 2025 and grow its range of plug-in hybrid offerings.
“The e-tron marks a special moment in time. It marks the beginning of a new era, a new era in electric mobility. The e-tron is the first of many to come, delivering on our promise of Vorsprung durch Technik," Schot said.
Audi is not first to a mainstream electric game, with Schot instead arguing the brand waited until it was sure it could produce the best vehicle in class.
“Vorsprung – being ahead – is defined not only by being the first to do something. Vorsprung rather means being the first to do something right… it’s not only about being the first to do things, It’s about doing the right things. Doing them right, when the time is right!" Schot argued, "and the time is unquestionably right for electric to go Audi."
Taking a small dig at Tesla, Schot says Audi’s skill is blending “over 100 years of experience in manufacturing premium cars” with the new world to produce what will become a mainstream model, both in the e-tron and beyond.
“We build a new ecosystem around the electric car with premium digital services, like functions on demand. We strive to live sustainability in a very consistent way: our electric cars enable driving with a more responsible mindset," Schot said, "and they are built at a CO2-neutral plant in Brussels, Belgium.
"In the future, electric cars, autonomous driving and sharing will come together. This will result in a new mobility system with more freedom and more responsibility for all of us."
Audi plans to offer more than 20 electrified models by 2025 – some will be plug-in hybrids, but more than half will be fully-electric.
“Following the Audi e-tron, we will launch the Audi e-tron Sportback next year, and an electric-powered compact model in 2020, as well as a four-door Gran Turismo in the same year."
"The Audi e-tron GT will be the sporty spearhead of our electrified cars. We believe in the midst of the next decade, one third of our sold cars will be electrified.”
Audi’s global market share arguably hasn't been affected by dieselgate, with the brand surging ahead across key markets like the USA and China, Australian sales are down by around eight percent. Mercedes-Benz is down by almost the same amount, which shows a wider issue across the luxury segment.