Audi readies to spar in the electric mobility arena with a dozen new models by 2025. We headed to San Francisco to see their first contender. By
Pushing off from Pier 3 into the beautiful San Francisco harbour last Monday evening, I couldn’t get the 60s classic by soul singer Otis Redding, Sittin’ On the Dock of the Bay, out of my head. We glide past the notorious Alcatraz prison while in the distance the iconic Golden Gate Bridge stands tall — as it has done for eight decades. Written shortly before his tragic death in a plane crash at just 26 years of age, Redding sings with a deep passion about the pressures of change. In a way, his lyrics were appropriate, considering 1,600 guests were aboard the majestic paddleboat, the San Francisco Belle as we headed to the site of an old Ford plant in Richmond, California, for the unveiling of Audi’s first fully electric vehicle — the e-tron.
In a welcoming speech Bram Schot, acting president for Audi, touched on recent events that have rocked the Volkswagen group. “While we must not forget what has happened in the past, the need for change is now.”
He was of course referring to the emissions scandal known as Dieselgate. The build-up to this week’s event had all the ingredients of a Hollywood movie. Two months out from the planned August unveiling of the e-tron in Brussels, it was announced the event was postponed due to “organisational issues”.
It is no secret that the company’s CEO, Rupert Stadler, had been arrested days before at his Ingolstadt home for his involvement in the scandal. To date the group has been fined in excess of $26bn — and other lawsuits are pending. And as investigators dig deeper into the scandal, the murkier things become — fraud, phone-tapping, high-profile resignations. It’s straight from Tinseltown.
Hiltrud Werner, the sole woman on Volkswagen’s management board, was forthright in a recent interview when she described the situation as “the worst industrial scandal in Germany since World War 2. It has a magnitude that we have not seen before.”
It might be pre-emptive to say Monday was the start of “new beginnings” for the group, but it is definitely a new technological chapter for Audi as they head into a future in