Volt Birth Watch 165: Audi Prez: Tesla Another "Car for Idiots" (If You Know What He Means)

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

“Audi of America President asserts that sustainable technologies, not ‘silver bullets,’ will drive automotive progress.” And there you have it: President Johan de Nysschen public clarification re: widely disseminated reports that he called the U.S. taxpayer-supported Hail Mary-shaped plug-in electric/gas hybrid Chevrolet Volt “a car for idiots.” [Press release after the jump.] Clearly, de Nysschen has only slightly modified his central contention; I guess he meant to say the Volt is built by idiots for intelligent people. And then the VW suit picked-up the phone to hash it out with Volt Kool-Aid purveyor Lyle Denis over at gm-volt.com. The Audi Prez tickled his tonsils with his other foot. “’I don’t think the Volt is a car for idiots,’ he said. He claimed the headline was a journalist’s misinterpretation, and that his point was that the Volt was ‘an idiotic business case,’ and not how he would refer to people. ‘We might as well have been taking about the Tesla,’ he said.” Oh, dear.

HERNDON, Va., Sep 8, 2009 – Finding practical ways to reduce automotive emissions and lessen America’s energy dependence isn’t something that can wait for technological breakthroughs years down the road, noted Audi of America President Johan de Nysschen. Instead, car companies and government policy makers should immediately embrace promising new technologies that can quickly add up to make a real difference. In a wide-reaching speech at Audi’s 100th Anniversary celebration in Sonoma, California, de Nysschen also discussed his thoughts on the future of luxury, asserting that the era of “legacy luxury” –products that convey status without regard to cost or resources consumed – is now at the end of its life cycle, with Audi representing the new era of “progressive luxury.”

Addressing journalists gathered to experience the latest Audi models and technologies, de Nysschen affirmed that Audi has an abiding commitment to bring sustainable automotive technologies to the world’s motorways. In particular, he noted several projects that increase the efficiency of existing internal combustion technology and could serve as effective bridges to a future that can deliver solutions to limitations found today on matters such as battery technology, energy production and well-to-wheel environmental impact. These technologies ensure that Audi will be the standard bearer of progressive luxury and the modern automotive industry.

Specifically, de Nysschen discussed the company’s clean diesel TDI engines which drastically reduce the need for petroleum products, light aluminum body designs, vibration dampeners to ensure the car effectively uses all energy it develops and smaller, high-performance engines that require less fuel to perform. Together, these systems ensure that the automotive industry will maintain until the next generation technology is more viable.

“Yes, we spend a lot of time ensuring that our owners drive something better,” said de Nysschen. “We and our consumers also want to drive at something better – a more sustainable future.”

Intrinsically tied to these sustainable developments, de Nysschen argued, is the need for the old concept of luxury to “recede into the rearview mirror” in favor of the “progressive luxury” that Audi strives to represent. He acknowledged that people of means will reward themselves for hard work with status symbols, but that those purchases must square “with the ethos of an era that has been called the end of excess.” To that end, Audi is providing products that are considerately-crafted inside and out – demonstrative of success without excess.

“This is the type of luxury that announces itself in aggregate. Everything just feels flawless, inside and out,” de Nysschen said. “You realize (that) when you get into an Audi, it’s not only the engine that moves you.”

Among the key quotes from Mr. de Nysschen’s speech (which is available in its entirety at www.audiusanews.com):

• We are thinking of a leadership position in terms of centuries, and so we must ask (questions about the sustainability of the industry), and answer them.

• As Audi enters our second century, we are answering these questions simultaneously – defining the future of luxury by redefining the future itself, to be more sustainable, more beautiful, and more progressive than ever before.

• When you look at the vehicles that defined luxury for the last several decades, you see size for the sake of size. Symbols for the sake of status. Aggressiveness bordering on arrogance. A “relentless pursuit of perfection” that somehow forgot about passion. How boring. These are all remnants of an automotive landscape that is fast receding into the rearview mirror. Progressive Luxury is what we see when we look through the windshield.

• We and our consumers also want to drive at something better – a more sustainable future.

• In pursuing sustainability, there’s no silver bullet.

• The challenge is that Americans, by and large, haven’t quite been willing to put their consumerism where their conscience is – sales of small cars have declined more than the average decline of all segments, meaning that sales are still migrating to small and medium size SUVs.

• The truly sustainable solution is to give today’s consumer a much more efficient version of what they already want – whether that’s performance, space, fine finishes, or all of the above.

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • Luke42 Luke42 on Sep 08, 2009

    Autosavant: The word I used was "possibilities", not "certainties". The "contradictions" that you point out come from several assumptions about things that I didn't say, including the assumption that these "possibilities" both happen, and happen in a particular order. I'd be happy to explain my worldview over a beer. Bud Light if necessary, but I prefer Guinness. The truth is that I don't know what the future holds -- and I sleep fine knowing that. But I'm an adaptable sort.

  • Anonymous Anonymous on Sep 09, 2009

    Author: Luke42 Comment: Autosavant: The word I used was "possibilities", not "certainties". The "contradictions" that you point out come from several assumptions about things that I didn't say. " No, they came from a statement you did write, the one that included both global warming and an alleged "peak oil" shortage together. My point is that one of the two would logically neutralize the other, and vice versa. "I'd be happy to explain my worldview over a beer. Bud light if necessary, but I prefer Guinness." My preference too. If a 12-yr scotch or better is not available. "The truth is that I don't know what the future holds -- and I sleep fine knowing that." You are very correct here, on both counts. Nobody knows, even the CEOS and the experts, and nobody could POSSIBLY know. And because there is little you can do worrying about what you do not know, it makes sense to sleep well. This is exactly what bugs me about the peak oil crowd (that seems to pop up mostly when prices rise, and hide when they inevitably fall... LOL. They know even less than we do, and in place of knowledge, they offer conspiracy theories, such as, why don't the Saudis let us look at their State Secrets. DUH, Peak oilers, exactly because they ARE state secrets! If I was the Saudi Oil Mimister, I'd not show you one word, let alone one page, of my Reserves and production extimates.

  • The Oracle These are all over the roads in droves here in WNC. Rarely see one on the side of the road, they are wildly popular, capable, and reliable. There is a market for utilitarian vehicles.
  • Stephen My "mid-level" limited edition Tonino Lambo Ferraccio Junior watch has performed flawlessly with attractive understated style for nearly 20 years. Their cars are not so much to my taste-- my Acura NSX is just fine. Not sure why you have such condescension towards these excellent timepieces. They are attractive without unnecessary flamboyance, keep perfect time and are extremely reliable. They are also very reasonably priced.
  • Dana You don’t need park, you set auto hold (button on the console). Every BMW answers to ‘Hey, BMW’, but you can set your own personal wake word in iDrive. It takes less than 5 minutes to figure that that out, btw. The audio stays on which is handy for Teams meetings. Once your phone is out of range, the audio is stopped on the car. You can always press down on the audio volume wheel which will mute it, if it bothers you. I found all the controls very intuitive.
  • ToolGuy Not sure if I've ever said this, or if you were listening:• Learn to drive, people.Also, learn which vehicles to take home with you and which ones to walk away from. You are an adult now, think for yourself. (Those ads are lying to you. Your friendly neighborhood automotive dealer, also lying to you. Politicians? Lying to you. Oh yeah, learn how to vote lol.)Addendum for the weak-minded who think I am advocating some 'driver training' program: Learning is not something you do in school once for all time. Learning how to drive is not something that someone does for you. It is a continuous process driven by YOU. Learn how to learn how to drive, and learn to drive. Keep on learning how to drive. (You -- over there -- especially you, you kind of suck at driving. LOL.)Example: Do you know where your tires are? When you are 4 hours into a 6 hour interstate journey and change lanes, do you run over the raised center line retroreflective bumpers, or do you steer between them?
  • Mike Bradley Advertising, movies and TV, manufacturing, and car culture have all made speeding and crashing the ultimate tests of manhood. Throw in the political craziness and you've got a perfect soup of destruction and costs.