With electric vehicles getting a lot of press, you might be wondering which models are scratching consumers in all the right places.
According to J.D. Power’s U.S. Electric Vehicle Experience Ownership Study, the Kia Niro EV is the best thing the mainstream BEV market currently has to offer. The Korean model garnered a satisfaction rating of 744 points out of a possible 1,000. However, it wasn’t the top dog overall. That honor fell to the Tesla Model 3, which achieved a score of 777 points — besting the industry average for premium electrics by a whole seven points.
Have you seen an Audi E-Tron (officially, “e-tron”) on the street? This writer hasn’t. Yet the electric Audi crossover has been on offer for a little over a year now, slowly paving the way for an all-electric future.
Available to U.S. customers through special order and to dealers who just wish to keep one around, the E-Tron arrived in early 2019 with 204 miles of EPA-rated range. It’s now back after skipping a model year, with two improvements aimed at broader consumer appeal, if not adoption.
Audi has reportedly paused assembly of its all-electric e-Tron to address production issues that include battery supply bottlenecks. It’s not uncharted territory for the model. Audi had to delay the model’s launch over claimed software changes in 2018, though it was known that corporate parent Volkswagen Group was having trouble with battery supplier LG Chem at the time. Since then, the crossover’s short life has been a well-publicized series of victories and failures.
Outselling rivals like the Jaguar I-Pace by a margin of almost two to one, Audi delivered 5,369 e-Trons in the United States in 2019 despite it not being available for the full year. Competition was closer in Europe, with the Audi still moving in larger volumes. The model also received favorable crash test ratings and was awarded with the IIHS’ Top Safety Pick+ designation.
However, supply problems never really abated. Every few months brought a new rumor that Audi was suffering from battery shortages, possibly forcing it to idle production. A battery fire scare prompted the factory to voluntarily recall the first batch. While the impact of these issues was rarely as serious as feared, their persistent nature caused many to wonder how ready the industry actually is for the transition to EVs.
Audi engaged in a publicity stunt this week to prove electric vehicles can be legitimate workhorses, capable of towing sizable items long distances without issue. While most EVs aren’t actually rated to tow anything, Audi’s e-Tron is supposedly able to haul a few thousand pounds worth of whatever behind it.
Audi Tulsa and Audi ONE, Audi of America’s Herndon-based electrification strategy team, supported the all-volunteer Oklahoma Chapter of the Electric Auto Association in testing that theory by taking one from Tulsa, Oklahoma, to the Fully Charged Live electric-car event at Circuit of the Americas in Texas.
Under idyllic circumstances, the 500-mile journey should have depleted the crossover’s 95-kWh battery pack twice. However, Audi’s press release seems to indicate using an EV to tow a trailer is anything but ideal, and the resulting figures prove it.
Roger Penske, the business magnate whose Penske Automotive Group operates more than 150 dealers across the U.S., isn’t very excited about electric vehicles, as he’s seen how easily they sell.
Which is to say, he’s seen how difficult it can be to unload an EV.
While Tesla chooses to go its own way in the retailing space, established OEMs with a strong dealer presence must consider other financial realities in deciding how they offer a new EV. Unlike Tesla, these new EVs often look like the ICE-powered vehicles they share a stable with. However, their price might not have much in common with similar-sized vehicles sitting just across the showroom or lot.
Audi’s E-Tron has become the first battery electric vehicle to receive the coveted Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Top Safety Pick+ award. However, considering the group rarely tests EVs, it may soon find itself with company. The IIHS requires an automobile to earn high marks in six crashworthiness evaluations, as well as an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention and a good headlight rating to be eligible for the commendation.
Chevrolet’s Bolt managed to achieve the necessary ratings in all categories, save for headlight illumination. The same was true for Tesla’s Model S — though that vehicle also received an “acceptable” rating for the small frontal overlap crash test. Other EVs have yet to undertake a full complement of tests, potentially giving the E-Tron a bit of a head start.
It’s not good PR for a brand hoping to snap up wary would-be converts, but it does suggest that Audi’s quality management apparatus is at least partly up to snuff.
On Monday the German automaker announced a voluntary recall of 540 E-Tron SUVs sold in the United States out of fear that a glitch could spark a large and hard-to-control fire. The E-Tron, a fully electric midsize SUV with a (happily) conventional appearance, saw its first full month of U.S. sales in May, moving 856 units.
While electric vehicles have improved by every metric, sourcing the raw materials necessary for their production hasn’t gotten any easier. In fact, with more mobile devices and EVs on the market than ever before, automotive batteries are becoming harder to procure with any reliability. Volkswagen Group, which has been on a tear to promote electrification following its diesel emissions crisis, knows this better than anyone.
Audi’s all-electric E-Tron SUV experienced several delays after VW Group encountered trouble in sourcing batteries at a reasonable price. As the company continues endorsing EVs as an important part of its future, its rhetoric is beginning to soften — with the company now taking another look at hydrogen fuel cell technology.
Audi’s first electric sport utility vehicle, the much-touted E-Tron, will arrive at dealerships a month later than anticipated. According to the automaker, a software development issue has stymied the rollout.
While nothing has reportedly busted, Audi claims it needs to obtain the necessary regulatory clearances for some ones and zeros that were modified during the development process. Normally, we would assume the applicable agencies would have been informed of this in advance, but we don’t know what Audi changed. All the manufacturer admits to is that alterations were made to benefit the customer.
Marketing materials aside, visitors to Audi dealers in the near future won’t see much of the new E-Tron crossover. They’ll have to ask about it first, and, if they’re in luck, there’ll be a demonstrator on hand.
Audi’s proceeding cautiously with its mass-market EV. For now, it’s only taking refundable reservations from customers, hoping that keeping the E-Tron out of the normal vehicle flow will help it turn a profit — a problem facing most EVs.
Audi found itself preempted in a number of ways last night. Not only did the San Francisco unveiling of the brand’s new electric crossover take place not too far from the home of Tesla’s well-established Model X, it also comes as Jaguar’s I-Pace EV prepares to pop up at U.S. dealers. Meanwhile, rival Mercedes-Benz saw fit to debut its EQC electric crossover just two weeks prior.
The crossover’s side-view cameras — pods on the end of thin arms, replacing a traditional mirror (and not legal in the U.S.) — would have been revolutionary, had Lexus not revealed its Japanese-market ES last week. And, if that wasn’t enough, Elon Musk choose Monday night to reveal the hapless individual slated to become the first SpaceX tourist. The lucky bidder will be fired around the moon.
All of this took away from the unveiling of a conventionally styled utility vehicle tailor made to avoid striking terror into the hearts of non-EV fans.
Audi had hoped to unveil a new challenger to Tesla’s electric throne at a Brussels marketing event, but the ill-timed arrest of its former CEO forced the automaker to shelve those plans. Rupert Stadler remains in custody, casting a dark cloud over the brand and the vehicle its engineers spent years developing.
What to do? Apparently, the solution involves bundling the car into a plane and sending it to America.