Audi’s flagship electric car won’t spark in Australia until next year, with WLTP issues and smelly insects delaying shipments of three key new models.
The German maker has been hit by the same stink bug that’s affected shipments from parent-company Volkswagen Group out of Europe, causing frustrating delays since last year. However, according to Audi Australia corporate communications manager Shaun Cleary, the interruption to stock from the little critter is minor compared to the backlog it faces as headquarters prioritises other markets in the wake of WLTP testing.
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“We’ve had some product delays,” Cleary told Wheels. “Specifically, we’ve had [the new] A1 and Q3 that’ve been moved to fourth quarter of this year, and we’ll also see the E-Tron launch early next year which is delayed from where it was.”
Audi was originally planning to launch its first electric SUV within months, but a long process to homologate the vehicle to new WLTP regulations and Audi shuffling the international pecking order have delayed action until January 2020 at best. It’s a pain for Volkswagen Group, which has had to restructure model lines around the world. It’s a further frustration for Audi Australia that will miss the jump on Mercedes-Benz, launching its electric SUV, the EQC, in Australia later this year.
“While WLTP does not specifically relate to Australia, it’s the accepted homologation standard for Audi… with the onslaught of product that is being rolled out globally, it’s a task to get all those models homologated.
“Naturally, the priority falls to the bigger markets with greater volumes, as you can imagine, which means there have been some delays for us.
“It [E-Tron] has to be homologated in the same way - things like how much electric current and capacity you use, total range, and how far it can drive.”
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However, there’s a silver lining, as planning a compatible rapid charging network for the E-Tron and ‘wall kits’ for home use will be better established once it does launch. It could be an important selling point for Audi which uses the latest-generation rapid charging technology.
“Bear in mind, because we were planning to introduce it mid-year , we’re a long way down that road with planning. With charging infrastructure in terms of a customer solution, we’ll be offering the option to package with a partner of ours and to install some suitable charging equipment in their house.
“In terms of charging between city and house, there are a number of destination chargers rolling out. We’re a founding partner of the Chargefox network which is a big part of a network rolling out a lot of charging stations, such as those high capacity chargers that are really important for Australian use. And the E-Tron is the fastest charging EV on the global market at the moment, able to charge 80 percent capacity in 30 minutes.”
But Cleary is unsure what Audi Australia’s electric future will look like after the E-Tron. Though a flurry of plug-in hybrid ‘TFSI e’ models have been revealed - the Q5, A6, A7 and A8 - and future products previewed like the Q4 E-Tron, Audi appears to be waiting on response to the bigger SUV first.
“The Audi brand strategy is that there is going to be 30 models electrified models by 2025. That’s a lot of models and that’s a key part of our strategy which we’ll certainly support in Australia. For us at the moment, the focus is on E-Tron, which will be the first fully electric car.
“We’re evaluating those models and future ones that have not been announced, being 30 of them. We’re certainly looking to support and we will be engaged with the overall electrification strategy over the coming years,” said Cleary.