Sport utility vehicles also played a bigger role than you might think in making Audi relevant in the US, and based on what we learned during a sit-down with Audi of America president Scott Keogh at the Paris Motor Show, their role is only going to continue to grow at the automaker.
Last year, the brand sold 202,202 cars in the States, capping off 60 consecutive months of record sales. But it's not enough to focus on traditional SUVs like the Q5, which was launched on the heels of the global economic meltdown in a tiny small segment of around 160,000 vehicles and has since ballooned to over 400,000 units. The Q5 has scored 80 percent of its buyers from conquest, and a new plant in Puebla, Mexico, promises to churn even more units to the US and the world.
Still, tackling the future head-on can be like wrestling an eel – an elusive, almost impossible-to-execute challenge – and Audi is betting a huge part of that success will be the production version of the E-Tron Quattro Concept that debuted last year in Frankfurt. Internally referred to as the C Bev, this battery-powered SUV claims a 311-mile range, and might as well be nicknamed the Tesla Model X Killer.
"If you look at where this car migrated from," Keogh says, "it started as a European-ish city car, and then it migrated into a sedan-ish sportback-y type thing, and then we pushed very aggressively to make it an SUV." Keogh says the vehicle will hit showrooms "after 2018."
The SUV layout naturally lends itself to batteries, but it also boils down to a simple bureaucratic advantage: "We get [government CO2 and fuel economy] credits for volume," says Keogh. "It's not just enough for a car to be there, it's got to be a car that a lot of people want to buy." Sized between a Q5 and a Q7, the E-Tron Quattro resides in a target-rich environment, a 600,000 - 700,000 unit segment. Add Audi's goals of electrifying 25 percent of its lineup by 2025, and a high volume, medium/large SUV simply makes sense.
So while coupes, cabriolets, and sports cars attract warm bodies to dealerships, it might be a battery-powered SUV that helps take Audi – and the auto industry at large – to the next level.