In what seems to be an obvious snub toward electric vehicles, Audi’s new CEO, Markus Duesmann, said the company will continue to “massively” invest in combustion engines. Audi, which is a Volkswagen Group subsidiary, plans to continue its investment in the development of combustion engines. CEO, Markus Duesmann, believes that combustion engines will be “alive for a very long time. This is why we continue to invest massively in the development of combustion engines.”
He also added that the share of electric vehicles will rise significantly by the mid-2020s, but that combustion models will still make up 60–70% of the market. “And they must be top. Of course, we will continue to step on the gas regarding combustion engines,” he said in an interview with Focus.de.
BMW and Mercedes-Benz have also stated that the internal combustion engine is here to stay for many more years. A reason they cited is that the technologies have advanced so far that ICE engines are more efficient than ever before. And if automakers can continue to improve their power and efficiency, then investing is in these things is very important.
A quick look at its parent company, Volkswagen Group, shows just how divided its team is regarding the perception of electric vehicle sales. Similar to the above, new Volkswagen brand chief Ralf Brandstätter seemed to dismiss the idea of transitioning to EVs when he said that VW would continue to offer combustion models for “a long time.”
In an article by Focus.de, the image painted before us compared with Volkswagen’s many plans and press releases about EVs revealed an inner power struggle inside of Volkswagen. Part of those struggles revolves around the sales of classic models versus the sales of EVs. It would seem that Volkswagen executives pushing the EV revolution and Volkswagen dealers have different takes on the successes of EV sales.
Auto Motor & Sport reported, “Above all, the sales department has apparently fought behind the scenes against the massive focus on electric cars and the deletion of important combustion models.” Apparently, VW CEO Herbert Diess wanted to completely replace the Up with the e-Up, but dealers protested by saying that the Up was important in order to attract customers to the showrooms, due to their low price. “The result: The Up is still available with a combustion engine.”
Another facet of these struggles is the planned farewell of the Passat — apparently, that didn’t go down well in the group. “When Diess wanted to replace the Passat with an MEB derivative similar to the ID. Vizzion by 2023 at the latest, the dealers were in a storm again. The electric car would be too expensive, especially for fleet customers. The traditional Passat, therefore, remains on offer,” noted Auto Motor & Sport.
Keeping all of this in mind, if Audi was a child, it would make sense to want to get into a safe place while her parents argued. For Audi, that safe place would be the combustion engine. However, in this real-world case, going backwards is not a good idea for the future of the company. Even if it seems safe right now, it creates more risk.
Battery technology today has come a long ways and will continue to expand and revolutionize both the automotive and the energy industries. Turning your back on that is as senseless as ditching an EV and buying either a hybrid or a gas vehicle because you’re tired of charging your car.
In all honesty, it seems as if the legacy automakers, especially the European ones, are digging in their heels when it comes to change. It is as if they are resisting the idea of fully electrifying their products. They don’t feel the sense of urgency that Tesla feels when it comes to making vehicles that don’t create greenhouse gas emissions. Although the demand for EVs is there, it’s as if they can’t see or sense it.
Unfortunately, one of the several Tesla myths being put out there for years is that there is no demand for EVs — a myth often put out by the CEOs of major auto companies. The truth is that if there was no demand, Tesla wouldn’t have the best selling luxury car in the USA, which was also the 7th best selling car overall in the USA in 2019.
The passion to make electric vehicles, however, seems only to live in full spirit in Tesla. Even though it has the e-tron, which is the best selling EV in the hot Norwegian market (69% EV market share), and even though Volkswagen Group is essentially tied with Tesla and Renault in Europe for plug-in vehicle sales, it looks like many in Audi want to give up on EVs by investing in combustion engines and selling the same old same old.
Photos by José Pontes and Zach Shahan (×3), for CleanTechnica