Audi to build global production network for EVs, unveils Formula E racing car
Audi will expand its electric vehicle (EV) production on a global basis as it accelerates its EV programme in line with wider Volkswagen Group plans.
IHS Markit perspective
- Significance: Audi says that it is planning a global production network for its new generation of electric vehicles (EVs), while it has also launched its first electric racing car.
- Implications: Audi plans for its Brussels facility to be the lead plant for its electromobility programme and the e-tron Quattro will go into production there next year, but the expected increase in demand for EVs worldwide makes global production more or less inevitable. The new Audi EV racing car will represent Audi's lead motor-sport programme in 2018 after it announced its withdrawal from the World Endurance Championship.
- Outlook: Although Audi CEO Rupert Stadler has mentioned Hungary and Mexico as sites where EV production will be expanded, given the pro-EV policies in China and Audi's leading position in the world's largest automotive market, it makes sense for it to begin production outside of Europe there first. Audi will start production of its e-tron model in China from 2022, according to IHS Markit's latest forecast.
Audi CEO Rupert Stadler has said that his company will develop a global production network for its new electric vehicle (EV) range, including its new plant in Mexico and its facility in Hungary, according to an Automotive News Europe (ANE) report. Stadler was speaking at an address to around 7,000 employees at the company's main Ingolstadt (Germany) headquarters. He said, "In future, electric cars will roll off the line in all of our plants." The presentation also offered some more details on how Audi itself will contribute to the Volkswagen (VW) Group's plans to roll out a combined 80 separate EVs across all its brand by 2025. The company's board member for development, Peter Mertens, said that the Audi brand would roll out more than 20 electrified vehicles before 2025, with about a dozen designed to be battery-only. This represents more than one-quarter of the VW Group's combined EV target by 2025. Production of EVs will also include Audi's two main plants in Germany, Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm, according to the report. IHS Markit currently sees production of the pure EV variant of the A3 C-segment vehicle beginning from 2019 when the next-generation model is introduced.
Meanwhile, Audi has launched a key component of its EV marketing strategy by unveiling its brand-new electric racing car, the Audi e-tron FE04, which will compete in the 2017/18 Formula E series. The car represents Audi's first full works entry into the championship. Commenting on the FE04, Mertens said, "After nearly 40 years of being successfully active in motorsport on the highest level, Audi now becomes the first German automobile manufacturer to compete in Formula E in order to test and advance the development of new technologies for production." He added, "Following quattro, TFSI, TDI, hybrid drive and many other innovations, our first single-seater race car is a portent of our product offensive in the field of electric mobility that we are ringing in with the Audi e-tron in 2018."
Outlook and implications
Audi has been clear for some time that the lead plant for its EV production programme will be its facility in Brussels (Belgium). Previously, this plant has had its resources allocated to the assembly of the B-segment A1, but it has been repurposed over the past 18 months as the new research and development and production centre for Audi's new EV range. The company will begin production of EVs here in 2018, according to IHS Markit's latest alternative-propulsion forecast, with just under 5,000 units being manufactured in the first year, rising to a peak of 55,000 units by 2020. By that point, the Brussels plant will also manufacture an e-tron Sport model, which will have a coupé/crossover bodystyle, as well as a new C-CUV electric model, according to our forecast. Our Audi EV production forecast does not currently see any production allocated to Audi's Gyor plant or its Mexican facility, which the company's CEO was reported as having mentioned in his address by ANE, but this is likely to change given the rapidly evolving nature of EV investment plans. If Audi is to establish a global production network for its EV offerings, it is inevitable that it will establish EV production in China to serve the world's biggest EV market, given the Chinese New Energy Vehicle policy that is designed to compel manufacturers to produce EVs in the country. As things stand, we see Audi EV output beginning in China from 2022 with the launch of production of the e-tron at its Shanghai plant.
With regards to Audi's works Formula E programme, this effectively replaces its previous top-level motor-sports programme and its involvement in the World Endurance Championship and the Le Man 24 Hours race, from which it withdrew last year. The programme will be a cornerstone of the marketing campaign to promote Audi's new EV range. In Formula E, manufacturers are allowed to develop the powertrain, consisting of the motor, transmission, parts of the suspension, and the respective software, with a significant focus on designing the motor-generator unit. Audi has worked to develop a new system to transmit power to the wheels, with the new FE04 using a high-efficiency transmission with only one gear. Audi and its rivals, which are entering the championship in an increasingly serious fashion, will hope that the increased pace of EV powertrain development inspired by the competition will lead to gains in road car EV programmes in terms of powertrain range, efficiency, and performance.
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