Audi has, with the announcement it will release three models by 2020, signalled its intention to take on Tesla in the electric vehicle market. It will also form a new subsidiary to develop autonomous cars.
The company openly admits its renewed interest is a direct result of the diesel emission scandal that engulfed its parent company, Volkswagen.
Old models will likely make way for the new ones, potentially including the two-door A3.
Audi CEO, Rupert Stadler, told news agency, Reuters, that the company wanted to take on Tesla’s early dominance in the electric and autonomous vehicle market. Audi plans to release a battery-electric SUV by 2018 and hopes that by 2025, 25 to 30 per cent of its sales will come from electrified models.
“This is about a robot car that may not even need a steering wheel or pedals, so it’s ideal for urban traffic,” he said.
Across the entirety of its brands VW is expected to launch up to 30 electric models over the next decade, from the small battery-electric Volkswagen e-Up, to the larger Bentley Bentayga hybrid (coming in 2017), plus Porsche and Audi models.
Significant development costs mean production of some current models will need to be either scaled back or halted completely in order to free up the necessary R&D cash.
Porsche has said it expects to create 40 per cent more new jobs than it had originally budgeted for, to handle its Mission E electric sports car.
Audi is also keen to move into fuel cell vehicles, but there are unlikely to be enough charging stations to make it viable until at least 2020.
In May, Tesla hired veteran Audi executive, Peter Hochholdinger, as vice president of vehicle production. Mr Hochholdinger will be responsible for driving the increased production of the Model S and Model X crossover SUV. His most important task will be to build a manufacturing program specifically designed for the Model 3 – probably the company’s most important vehicle.
Mr Hochholdinger’s appointment comes after the resignation of several Tesla executives, including the man he replaces, Greg Reichow. Others to depart in recent months include vice president of manufacturing, Josh Ensign, vice president of regulatory affairs and deputy general counsel, James Chen, and Ricardo Reyes, vice president of global communications.
Meanwhile, Chevrolet expects to begin production on its 2017 Bolt EV electric car before the end of the year. The Bolt will have a range of more than 300km.