Audi will rejig its lineup during the 2020s as it releases a wide array of EVs. It announced some nameplates will be electrified, others will be resurrected after a long hiatus, and a handful will be consigned to the automotive attic.
Introduced in April 2021, the futuristic A6 E-Tron concept previews the next-generation A6, which will exclusively be sold with an electric powertrain. The gasoline-powered current-generation model will remain in production in the foreseeable future, however. When it arrives, it will be one of 20 EVs the company plans to release by 2025.
Audi strongly hinted electric cars positioned below the A6 will be part of its offensive. Hildegard Wortmann, the firm's global chief of sales and marketing, told Top Gear that one might take the form of a city car inspired by the A2, a tall hatchback developed largely for the European market and sold between 1999 and 2005.
"The A2 fits our time. It was a remarkable use of space and technology, ahead of its time. Stay tuned, I'd say," she replied when asked about the possibility of seeing a follow-up. Audi has already explored what a modern-day A2 could look like; the AI:Me concept introduced in 2019 previewed one way to make an Audi for 2020s urbanites.
Audi needs a halo model, according to Wortmann, but the car doesn't necessarily need to look, sound, or be shaped like the V10-powered R8, which is its current range-topping sports car. She explained that "the icons of the past aren't necessarily the icons of the future," and stressed the R8's replacement "won't just be an R8 with an electric motor." Whatever Audi has in store, it will be "an R8 but different." There's no word on when we'll see it, however.
Now in its third generation, the TT faces a similar fate. "Customers have changed and the world has gone away from roadsters," Wortmann said. Earlier rumors claim the coupe and the roadster variants of the TT will retire without a direct successor, and they're credible, but that doesn't mean their spot in the portfolio will remain empty.
"In the past you made a car, then a similar successor. In the new industry you don’t. You have to go for new segments, because customers change. That’s why we’re doing so many coupe-SUVs. So, it’s not just about straightforward next-generation models of what we have done," she explained.
EVs make headlines, but they represent a tiny percentage of new car sales in most countries. Audi noted it can't stop making gasoline-powered models overnight because they're still in demand. However, it said anticipated improvements in battery technology and strict regulations will give electric technology a boost in the coming years.
"Battery costs are falling. By two years from now, our battery cars will be more profitable than combustion cars. Combustion cars also need huge investment to meet new regulations," including the Euro 7 regulations that will come into effect in 2026, and that Porsche is already thinking about. Wortmann stated that "customers will decide" whether to go electric, though in many markets the government will seemingly help them make a decision.
Wortmann concluded that, regardless of powertrain mix, Audi's image will need to change in the coming years.
"We have been Vorsprung Durch Technik for 50 years. We are keeping that line. But what is progress now? Not just horsepower or speed. We have to change the company and the brand to be sustainable. Buyers expect the brand to have a stance. It’s a must," she summed up, adding that "sustainability is the new premium" in the industry.
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