While the next cou­ple of years may be less of a fight than Tesla bears an­tic­i­pate, Audi as a brand rep­re­sents a le­git­i­mate foe.” Audi joins Mercedes-benz, BMW, Tesla for a share of elec­tric car seg­ment

The East African - - OUT­LOOK -

of Tesla’s sole auto assembly plant in Fre­mont.

“Audi is go­ing elec­tric and this is our our first ma­jor step,” Scott Keogh, pres­i­dent of Audi of Amer­ica, said in an in­ter­view be­fore the un­veil­ing.

“We feel we have an ex­tremely com­pelling prod­uct.”

Audi chose the San Fran­cisco area for the E-tron’s global de­but for sev­eral rea­sons: Cal­i­for­nia is the big­gest lux­ury auto mar­ket, the tech in­dus­try is prom­i­nent, and Gov­er­nor Jerry Brown just hosted a Global Cli­mate Ac­tion Sum­mit.

About 1,600 peo­ple at­tended the Audi show, in­clud­ing deal­ers, jour­nal­ists and em­ploy­ees fly­ing in for it. The event be­gan with a boat ride from San Fran­cisco and ended with strobe lights, pound­ing mu­sic and hun­dreds of mo­bile phones tak­ing pic­tures of the new car.

“Cal­i­for­nia is a big, im­pact­ful mar­ket,” Keogh said.

“Elec­tri­fi­ca­tion, the tech in­dus­try, the ecosys­tem is all here. It is the right place to do it.”

Diesel Dis­trac­tion

Audi, Volk­swa­gen AG’S pre­mium brand, shifted the pre­sen­ta­tion to Tesla’s back­yard af­ter ini­tial plans for a fete in Brussels at the end of Au­gust ran the risk of be­ing over­shad­owed by the sur­prise ar­rest of sus­pended chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Ru­pert Stadler over al­le­ga­tions he may have tam­pered with ev­i­dence re­lated to the par­ent com­pany’s diesel scan­dal.

Volk­swa­gen’s su­per­vi­sory board was to dis­cuss Stadler’s fu­ture at the man­u­fac­turer on Mon­day, ac­cord­ing to a Spiegel re­port.

The 55-year-old re­mains in cus­tody, as he has been since June. Bram Schot, Audi’s in­terim CEO, presided over the E-tron event.

“We are merg­ing the new world of elec­tric mo­bil­ity with a 100 years of ex­pe­ri­ence in man­u­fac­tur­ing,” Mr Schot said.

Mr Stadler’s down­fall marked the cul­mi­na­tion of what has been a tu­mul­tuous pe­riod for Audi, Volk­swa­gen group’s largest profit con­trib­u­tor.

Audi, which tem­po­rar­ily held the No. 2 spot some years ago in terms of global sales, lost ground to Ger­man lux­ury-car ri­vals Mercedes Benz and BMW both in terms of de­liv­er­ies and profit mar­gins.

The E-tron, whose an­tic­i­pated range in the US is ex­pected to be about 362 km per charge, of­fers an op­por­tu­nity for a fresh start at Audi if the model proves pop­u­lar with cus­tomers.

The mar­que plans to add two more bat­tery-pow­ered ve­hi­cles by 2020.

While the E-tron is largely based on stand­alone tech­nol­ogy, Volk­swa­gen is push­ing for deeper co-op­er­a­tion with sis­ter brand Porsche, es­pe­cially in the area of elec­tric-car devel­op­ment, to share costs.

Audi said it plans to in­tro­duce a to­tal of 12 fully elec­tric ve­hi­cles in its main mar­kets by 2025. By then, these mod­els and Audi’s hy­brids will ac­count for about a third of global de­liv­er­ies, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment.

Audi has about 300 deal­ers across the United States.

“Deal­ers were the tar­get au­di­ence of this event. The idea is to get Audi deal­ers en­thu­si­as­tic about the prod­uct,” said Chelsea Sex­ton, an elec­tric ve­hi­cle mar­ket­ing con­sul­tant, at the show.

The E-tron cross­over will be flanked by a Sportback vari­ant next year, fol­lowed by a slew of other ve­hi­cles cov­er­ing all ma­jor seg­ments from com­pact ve­hi­cles to up­scale lim­ou­sines.

A new de­sign con­cept, the E-tron GT, is slated to be un­veiled at the Los An­ge­les auto show in Novem­ber. Elon Musk, Tesla chief ex­ec­u­tive

Slow Strike

De­spite Audi’s am­bi­tions — and those of Porsche, BMW, Mercedes-benz and oth­ers — Tesla faces lit­tle di­rect com­pe­ti­tion be­fore 2020, Toni Sac­conaghi, an an­a­lyst with San­ford C. Bern­stein Co, wrote in a re­port on Mon­day.

Lux­ury elec­tric ve­hi­cles en­ter­ing the mar­ket now are mostly priced like Tesla’s Model S sedan and Model X cross­over. But Musk’s auto busi­ness is in­creas­ingly mov­ing to­wards the mass-lux­ury mar­ket, first with its smaller Model 3 sedan and even­tu­ally with the Model Y cross­over.

With Gen­eral Mo­tors’ Chevro­let Bolt lack­ing a lux­ury name­plate, the Model 3’s first true ri­val will be the Polestar 2 sedan that Volvo Cars is plan­ning for 2020, Mr Sac­conaghi said in a note to clients.

“Let us make this clear: There is no ac­tual flood of com­pe­ti­tion com­ing,” he said.

While the next cou­ple of years may be less of a fight than Tesla bears an­tic­i­pate, Audi as a brand rep­re­sents a le­git­i­mate foe, ac­cord­ing to Mr Musk’s past state­ments.

In 2012, he dis­missed com­par­isons to Nis­san Mo­tor Co.’s Leaf, an in­ex­pen­sive elec­tric model in­tended to sell in the

The E-tron is Audi’s first all-elec­tric SUV, here to carry Audi’s stan­dard onto the in­dus­try’s newest battlefield.

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