“The Four Rings have a clearly defined plan for the future.”

Combustion-engine vehicles are being replaced by electric models, the Audi environmental program Mission:Zero is being driven forward and in 2030, Audi wants to sell three million vehicles per year. Gerd Walker, Member of the Board of Management of AUDI AG, on the ambitious goals of the Four Rings and the challenge for Production and Logistics.

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Gerd Walker, Member of the Board of Management of AUDI AG, Production and Logistics (2022)
Gerd Walker, Member of the Board of Management of AUDI AG, Production and Logistics

You first started at Audi in 1997 as a student employee. You then held various positions both for the Four Rings and the Volkswagen Group and have been back in Ingolstadt since February as a Member of the Board of Management. What does the Audi brand mean to you?

 

It feels a little like returning home after being away on an eventful journey. Although geographically speaking it was “only” Wolfsburg and Győr in Hungary, I learned a great deal and gained important experience. I’m really pleased to be back in Ingolstadt now. This is where I started out as a student employee when I was 27. For me, Audi is the most exciting brand in the Volkswagen Group, because of its highly diverse product portfolio among other reasons.

In 2030, Audi wants to sell three million vehicles per year. At the same time, combustion-engine vehicles will gradually be replaced by electric models. What do these changes mean for Production and Logistics?

 

Setting this goal sends out a really strong message – both internally and externally. The Four Rings have a clearly defined plan for the future. In view of market forecasts, our attractive product portfolio and our flexible and highly capable team, it’s certainly feasible. The transformation is a long road, but we have already taken important steps. The Brussels plant has already been exclusively producing electric cars since 2018, we recently produced the 250,000th electric motor in Győr and in Ingolstadt we are gearing up for the Audi Q6 e-tron, including our own battery assembly.

Audi has been committed to enhancing environmental protection for years, primarily at its plants. Which additional measures are planned in this regard in 2022?

 

We already embarked upon an ambitious environmental program in Production and Logistics a couple of years ago with Mission:Zero. A central goal of this program is to operate our production sites with a net carbon-neutral1 footprint by 2025 at the latest. This has already been achieved for Audi Brussels and Audi Hungaria, as well as for the production of the Audi e-tron GT at the Böllinger Höfe production facility in Neckarsulm. But it is also quite clear that decarbonization is not the sole focus. The efficient handling of resources, economical water usage and protection of biodiversity are of at least equal importance. I would like to concentrate on this in particular and am delighted that so much groundwork has already been done in this area that we can now draw on.

 

At Audi Brussels, for instance, our plan is to cease using high-quality drinking water in the future to cover our process water requirements for production. Instead, we will use reprocessed wastewater from the neighboring municipal sewage plant into which our wastewater also flows. This has the potential to reduce the site’s drinking-water consumption by about 80 percent. Audi México has led the way in this regard, by the way, and has already been producing vehicles without any wastewater since 2019. In addition, we will present our own biodiversity index in 2022, which describes the animal and plant biodiversity at our production sites.

Audi RS e-tron GT: Power consumption (combined*) in kWh/100 km: 20.2–19.3 (NEDC) | 22.6–20.6 (WLTP)CO₂ emissions (combined*) in g/km: 0
Information on fuel/power consumption and CO₂ emissions with ranges depending on the selected equipment of the vehicle.

Audi e-tron GT quattro: Power consumption (combined*) in kWh/100 km: 19.6–18.8 (NEDC) | 21.8–19.9 (WLTP)CO₂ emissions (combined*) in g/km: 0
Information on fuel/power consumption and CO₂ emissions with ranges depending on the selected equipment of the vehicle.

Audi RS e-tron GT: Power consumption (combined*) in kWh/100 km: 20.2–19.3 (NEDC) | 22.6–20.6 (WLTP)CO₂ emissions (combined*) in g/km: 0
Information on fuel/power consumption and CO₂ emissions with ranges depending on the selected equipment of the vehicle.

Audi e-tron GT quattro: Power consumption (combined*) in kWh/100 km: 19.6–18.8 (NEDC) | 21.8–19.9 (WLTP)CO₂ emissions (combined*) in g/km: 0
Information on fuel/power consumption and CO₂ emissions with ranges depending on the selected equipment of the vehicle.

You know Audi from many different perspectives. How helpful is that for your new responsibilities?

 

This knowledge is especially helpful now on my return. I have good connections and kept in close contact with some of my Audi colleagues throughout the entire time. At the same time, I benefit enormously from my experiences over the past years, especially in terms of steering the entire Group-wide production network. Both collectively form the basis for one of my most important tasks: striking the right balance between making maximum use of Group synergies and protecting the specific Audi DNA in relation to our products.

Digitalization is opening up many new possibilities. How do you intend to further connect production at Audi?

 

Digitalization plays a key role for production in the future. Audi is already very well positioned in this regard. For example, we have a dedicated team, the Audi Production Lab, which tests innovative production technologies under real conditions. Audi is very open in general to new digital solutions. This openness also means collaborating intensively with external partners. One example of this is the Automotive Initiative 2025 at the Neckarsulm site, in the context of which we are developing a large network of expertise in digital production. During my time at Volkswagen, I dealt intensively with digital systems and helped to launch the Industrial Cloud. Some applications developed by Audi are already available on this platform for all plants in the Volkswagen Group. This creates excellent synergies and makes us faster and more flexible throughout the entire Group. We will now continue to follow this path systematically.

Strategy "Vorsprung 2030" – How Audi is shaping the future

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Strategy "Vorsprung 2030" – How Audi is shaping the future

“Vorsprung durch Technik” for the electric era

 

The electric mobility offensive of the Four Rings comes at just the right time. Climate-friendly mobility is becoming increasingly important. As of 2027, the company will offer electric models in all core segments. This range of electric cars will stand out from the competition thanks to its distinctive Audi DNA and “Vorsprung durch Technik” in certain areas. Design, sportiness, driving comfort and quality will all make a difference. In addition, Audi will demonstrate its strengths in workmanship, color & trim and acoustics.

 

A clear plan for the last and, at the same time, best combustion-engine vehicle from Audi

 

Audi is accelerating its changeover to electric mobility: As early as 2026, all new models from the Four Rings on the global market will be fully electric. And in 2033, the Four Rings will shut down the production of vehicles with internal combustion engines. One exception could be China, where the company is investigating the possibility of longer production depending on local demand. The last combustion-engine generation comes with a promise: It will be the best that Audi has ever put on the market. This drive strategy was set out clearly at an early stage, thus providing planning certainty and helping to guide future investments in a targeted and efficient manner. For Audi, this technological change goes hand in hand with the biggest transformation process in the company’s history. A particular focus will be on ensuring that the employees affected are able to train and develop successfully.

 

ESG performance as the basis for a better future

 

Audi already has net carbon-neutral1 operations for the production of its vehicles at several sites. Now the company is focusing even more strongly on sustainability throughout the entire product life cycle – from resource extraction and vehicle operation to recycling of the materials used. In the future, ESG (Environmental – Social – Governance) aspects are to play an important role in all the decisions made by Audi, as well as in its products and services. The main ESG criteria are climate protection, the use of finite resources, employee health and safety and the perception of social responsibility. Another consideration is the robustness of Audi’s corporate governance, for example in terms of compliance and risk management. Audi also submits to external evaluation in all these areas and will be given an internationally recognized ESG rating.

 

Holistic ecosystem puts users first and creates meaningful and fascinating experiences

 

Audi wants to make the progressive premium mobility of tomorrow even more attractive. Alongside the vehicle itself, its focus in the future will be on a holistic customer experience and on ways of integrating that experience into the lives of users. With this in mind, Audi is taking a close look at the users’ needs. They expect fascinating and meaningful experiences from Audi, as well as holistic solutions that seamlessly span all areas of their everyday lives. The ecosystem for electric cars – and in the future also for cars that drive automated – plays a central role in the transformation and will be key to customer satisfaction and thus to long-term, personal customer relationships. An elementary component of the ecosystem is charging, which has already been implemented successfully with charging options at home wall boxes, a comprehensive charging infrastructure with charging points throughout Europe and intelligent route planning. When it comes to further expanding the ecosystem, automated driving in particular will be a game changer. It will give rise to a large number of additional use cases that will fundamentally change the way people use their vehicles. The car will become a personal experience device and can be used as an office, a movie theater, a place to relax or as a space for shopping and gaming. The Audi ecosystem consistently focuses on the user and connects the vehicle with a wide range of services that cover all areas of life – both online and offline. This creates a holistic experience that spans all points of contact with the Audi brand and fits seamlessly into users’ lives.

 

Intelligent hardware: In the future, vehicle part will be fully connected and increasingly made of sustainable materials

 

Thanks to intelligent hardware, customers will be able to continually upgrade their cars going forward. This will ensure that Audi models remain attractive throughout their life cycle. To this end, Audi wants to offer its customers parts with an intelligent information system that proactively sends a request for replacement if it detects wear or a defect. The technical basis for this is provided by the vehicles’ connectivity with a sophisticated interplay of algorithms and sensors. In addition, Audi will recycle components to premium standards to strengthen a circular economy. Sustainable materials and resource-conserving production are key elements here. All these measures are also aimed at positively impacting the residual values of the models in the future. At the same time, Audi is thus expanding its range of services in the after-sales sector and aims to generate additional revenue in this profitable business area.

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