Audi Says Popularity of Electric Vehicles Is Creating a Challenge

Audi’s U.S. president says the automaker will continue to invest in electrification as the company leaves the internal combustion engine behind.

For Audi, listening comes naturally. 

The German automaker and Volkswagen  (VWAGY) – Get Volkswagen AG ADR Report subsidiary’s  name literally means “to listen” in Latin. 

Audi was founded in 1910 by automotive pioneer August Horch, who was unable to name his second car company after himself due to a trademark infringement case.

What to do? Well, you take the name “Horch”, which means “Hark!” or “hear” in German and translate it to “Audi”, the singular imperative form of “audire” – “to listen” – in Latin. 

‘A Leading Role in Electrification’

Audi has traveled far since those early days and now the Volkswagen subsidiary is moving steadily toward electrifying its fleet.

“Audi has always been playing a leading role in electrification,” Daniel Weissland, president at Audi of America, said in an interview, “and we’re going to continue to invest in electric vehicles and you will see more products in in the near future actually.” 

“We take it seriously to make sure that we protect the planet and the future of our children and grandchildren,” he added.

Beginning in 2026, every new Audi introduces will be fully electric, and in 2033, Audi will gradually phase out the production of the last internal combustion engine models.

And with the arrival of the Q4 e-tron models, Audi said it now offers more fully electric vehicle models in the U.S. compared with any other automaker–including Tesla  (TSLA) – Get Tesla Inc. Report.

“Audi came out as one of the first automakers on the planet to explicitly provided support to the Paris climate agreement and we’ve been very clear about why we’re doing what we’re doing,” said Spencer Reeder, director of sustainability and government affairs. 

The Price of Success

“It’s a good business decision because there’s great, building demand for this product, but we made the decision as a brand before it was really clear how quickly demand would build,” he said.

Weissland said dealers and customers alike are enthusiastic  about the Q4 e-tron, but supply chain challenges are slowing things down.

“Our dealers love their cars, customers love their cars,” he said. “We don’t have enough cars in the country yet, so our biggest challenge right now is to fulfill the demand to get more cars in the country. We’ve seen some improvement in the supply chain, but it will remain challenging.”

“The unfortunate timing is that this is coinciding right when we see this incredible growth in demand for electric vehicles,” Reeder said. “We’d love it if we could sell a lot more, but I think Audi positioned itself very well to create this demand for our product, so that’s a really big success story. I think we’re all excited about what that means for the future for the brand.”

‘We Go Our Own Way’

Nevertheless, Weissland said he was very confident that “together with our headquarters and with suppliers we going manage it well and make sure that we can get as many customers into electric Audis as possible.”

Weissland said he admired and applauded Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s accomplishments in creating a market for electric vehicles.

“They’ve basically shaken up the whole industry,” he said. “I would say we probably were the the first follower and, therefore there are certain things we could learn from Tesla, but I think we go own way. We have a strong dealer network which is essential to our business model and we have a strong product portfolio.”

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Reeder said that electrification is “just a natural extension of their DNA.”

“I think it’s a perfect fit for the history of the brand, even going back to its origins,” he said. “This is why you see Audi doing so well in the electric electrification space because we’ve always been a leader in innovation, so it’s just very consistent.”

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