Audi and FAW Group, the state-owned partner it is effectively required to have in order to preferential treatment from the Communist Party of China, received some good news this week. Government officials have approved the duo for a new, jointly operated production facility in Changchun.
With Volkswagen Group having shifted its focus toward China in recent years, the market has become all-important for the German company. VW is currently the top-selling brand for the entire region, with its Audi subsidiary typically being the highest volume premium automaker from Europe. Building in China is good optics for brands hoping to remain popular there and has the added benefit of placing manufacturing complexes closer to relevant suppliers, especially if you’re swapping to electric vehicles.
Ken Block is a man of many talents, many of which have nothing to do with driving. But he’s still best known for showboating from behind the wheel in the highly entertaining and well-produced Gymkhana video series. Here, Kenneth and the Hoonigan team choose a visually engaging locale and creatively rips up the pavement in some of the coolest custom-built rally cars ever to grace the screen.
Due to Block’s partnership with Ford, the majority of those cars wore the Blue Oval. But he’s since entered into a new professional marriage with Audi where he’s supposed to help push the brand’s all-electric agenda. The unification has apparently yielded its first mechanical offspring, with the insane-looking Audi S1 e-tron Quattro Hoonitron having debuted on Wednesday. Predictably electric, the vehicle is heavily inspired by the Group B legend that shares the parts of the name that don’t utilize the word tron.
Volkswagen Group has been prattling on about electrification for years and ultimately decided that Audi would be the tip of its progressive spear. The brand has cachet as both a luxury and performance division, while simultaneously possessing VW’s magical ability to produce vehicles that don’t become an eyesore after you’ve had them in the garage for a decade.
While transitioning toward EVs runs the risk of spoiling that, Audi is clearly the VW property best positioned to come after would-be Tesla customers and is not hesitant to issue reminders that it’s serious about being a global leader when it comes to battery-driven vehicles. On Tuesday, the Ingolstadt-based company announced plans to exclusively launch electrically driven automobiles from 2026 onward — adding that it doesn’t even plan on selling internal-combustion vehicles by 2033.
But these rules won’t apply to the Chinese market, which will be flush with internal-combustion vehicles produced within its borders years after the rest of the world has apparently lost the option to purchase them.
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.
Following the triumph that was Audi’s all-electric e-tron utility (the automaker doesn’t believe in uppercase letters), the brand developed a Sportback version for 2020 that sacrificed interior volume for a fastback roofline. The manufacturer describes it as “coiled yet poised, the stylized potential of the e-tron Sportback is clear from any angle — it’s designed to attract, electrify and generate envy of ownership,” making us cringe at the sheer magnitude of its pomposity. Based on the sales record of e-tron models, we may not be alone in feeling that way.
While plenty of outlets praised the model for its luxurious ride and upscale interior with lavish technical inclusions, we’ve come down hard on its production troubles and lackluster range. That’s likely the result of us mistakenly thinking cars should be broadly useful, especially SUVs and crossovers. But we’re also hyper-critical grumps and Audi also failed to deliver on the one item that set these cars apart from their internal combustion counterparts — the battery. Our hope was that the formula would be improved for the brand’s next EV, and that does seem to have happened.
Audi just debuted the Q4 Sportback e-tron Concept to complement the Q4 EV that appeared at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show.
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.
Customers won’t get a chance to buy an Audi E-tron SUV until next year, but, if money’s tight, they might want to hold off for a while. The German brand’s first electric utility vehicle (seen above) arrives in the second quarter of 2019, carrying a base price of $74,800 — at least once the launch editions clear out. More E-trons will follow, including a Sportback version of the SUV and a top-flight GT sports sedan.
Green, but still requiring plenty of green to plunk one in your driveway. Audi apparently has a solution for budget-minded premium EV shoppers, and it plans to make it happen with help from Volkswagen.
Scheduled to make its official debut at the 2018 LA Auto Show later this week, Audi decided to unwrap the e-tron GT Concept early — bringing in celebrity and friend of the brand Robert Downey Jr. to help do the honors.
While photos of the event were off limits, Audi was kind enough to provide a few media-approved renderings of what appears to be an A7 — sans grille — wearing the company’s signature EV camouflage. This is the e-tron GT, ready to do battle with Tesla’s Model S once Audi puts it into production. According to German outlet Bild am Sonntag, an uncamouflaged version of the concept should appear in Los Angeles on Wednesday — giving the manufacturer an opportunity to parse out the important details. However, we already have some of the pertinent specs.
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.
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.
Established automakers have finally decided they have the stones to challenge Tesla. Over the last few months, premium manufacturers have issued a glut of product announcements on vehicles targeting the premium EV segment. Audi dabbled in electrification earlier than most before scaling back a bit. However, it’s now positioning three new battery-electric models for production — the E-Tron Gran Turismo, Quattro SUV, and Sportback crossover.
The “e-tron” branding (obnoxiously styled by the automaker in all lower case) has been affixed to countless concept hybrid and battery-electric vehicles. But with the R8 e-tron killed off (in 2016), the only production model currently wearing the badge is the A3 Sportback. Audi claims this will change when its first round of fully electric vehicles arrive later this year. Unfortunately, the E-Tron GT isn’t supposed to commence production until “early next decade.” At that point, Tesla’s Model S will be nearly a decade old.
Along with the rest of Volkswagen AG, Audi has made plans to invest heavily into electric vehicles. The company expects EVs to comprise 25 percent of its U.S. sales by 2025 and is devoting the e-tron moniker to an entire division of electrified models, with the first arriving next year.
Addressing the J.D. Power Summit at this year’s National Automobile Dealers Association Convention and Expo, Audi of America President Scott Keogh told salesmen to welcome the electric mobility market with open arms or learn to cope with an ambivalent future. However, jumping head-first into a relatively small market with a huge potential for growth isn’t without pitfalls, and it isn’t unwise for dealers to remain cautious. Still, with Audi planning to introduce three new BEVs within the United States by 2020 and Volkswagen Group hoping to have 30 battery-electric models out by the 2025, you can see why Keogh is pressing the issue.
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