Audi Commits $16B to Electric & Other Technologies Through 2023

When Audi’s E-tron SUV starts rolling out to customers next year, it will be only the beginning of the German luxury marque’s drive to electrify its lineup.

Audi will invest €14 billion (about $16 billion) in electric vehicles, self-driving cars and new digital technologies between 2019 and the end of 2023, the company announced on December 4. By 2025, it expects to have about 20 electrified models, roughly half of them all-electric vehicles.

The investments are part of Audi’s strategy to rebound from its diesel-emissions cheating scandal with an all-out commitment to new propulsion systems. In addition to research and development, they include spending on property, plants and equipment. To give a sense of the company’s commitment to future technologies, its total corporate investments from 2019-23 will be about €40 billion ($45.3 billion).

Audi is the latest major automaker to commit significant resources to technologies that today represent only a small fraction of the market at best. Its announcement came on the heels of a plan by General Motors to transform its business by cutting several models and nearly 15 million jobs – while doubling investment in electric and autonomous development.

Established automakers are scrambling to follow Tesla, which is planning major expansions in China and Europe for its popular electric line-up. At the E-tron SUV launch, Audi trumpeted its extensive dealer and service network as an advantage over the Silicon Valley startup.

At Audi, the futuristic plans are part of a “realignment” following the international emissions-test cheating scandal that led to nearly $1 billion in fines and the arrest of CEO Rupert Stadler.

Parent company Volkswagen Group, rocked by the same scandal, has also made a hard turn toward electric vehicles, promising 27 models based on its MEB battery-electric platform by the end of 2022.

In fact, Audi is developing some products on the MEB platform, plus others on the larger PPE foundation Audi shares with corporate sibling Porsche.

The company’s overall plan to transform itself, like GM’s, might involve some pain, too. It includes “identifying and discontinuing activities that are no longer relevant to customers,” Audi said in a press release.

Since the September unveiling of the E-tron SUV, Audi’s first high-volume battery-electric model, the company has announced the E-tron Sportback, also coming next year. At the Los Angeles Auto Show last week, it unveiled the E-tron GT, a sleek four-door coupe concept scheduled for release in about two years.

On the autonomy front, Audi is introducing Traffic Jam Pilot, which it calls a Level 3 automation system, in the 2019 A8 sedan. The feature can drive the car autonomously under certain conditions on divided, limited-access highways with clear lane markings at speeds up to 37mph. While it does, drivers can take their hands off the steering wheel and look away from the road, Audi says. Traffic Jam Pilot won’t be offered on the US version of the A8, though the Lidar sensors it uses – the first on a production vehicle – will be built in.

The company’s “digitalization” initiative includes plans for over-the-air software upgrades for systems such as driver assistance, infotainment and lights via the MyAudi mobile app.

Stephen Lawson is a freelance writer based in San Francisco. Follow him on Twitter @sdlawsonmedia

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