“Automated driving will be the game changer in the automotive industry.”

What distinguishes the Audi design brand, how important will be automated driving for the automotive industry, and what highlights will shape 2022? An interview with Oliver Hoffmann, Member of the Board of Management of AUDI AG, Technical Development.

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Oliver Hoffmann, Member of the Board of Management of AUDI AG, Technical Development (2022)
Oliver Hoffmann, Member of the Board of Management of AUDI AG, Technical Development

For more than a year now, you have been the Member of the Board of Management of AUDI AG with responsibility for Technical Development. Looking back over your first year, what is the standout moment?

 

We set many important markers for our future in the past 12 months – from the expansion of our electric portfolio with the Audi e tron GT1 and the Audi Q4 e tron to the further development of the future drive platform PPE (Premium Platform Electric) through to the fine-tuning of our drive strategy with a definite exit date for the combustion engine. What has struck me the most though is the transformation in Technical Development. We have to ensure that our innovations are available even faster to our customers in the future. To this end, for example, we have put structures and processes in place, shortened development cycles and introduced a new development methodology. We now no longer design and develop a vehicle in accordance with traditional hardware components, but rather in highly connected systems. For me personally, it is very important that we work together closely as a team. This is the only way that we can master the transformation.

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 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.

The design is a particular strength of Audi. How can you ensure that this stays the case in the future?

 

Audi is a designer brand. The Audi design has been setting new standards for years with its skillful mix of innovative technologies and progressive creativity. To make sure this stays that way, we have updated the way we think and act in this area, too, and adapted them to meet the new challenges. Electric mobility, increasing digitalization and, above all, in the future automated driving with completely new possibilities for our customers increase the requirements but at the same time also provide new creative freedom. That’s why we now only design and develop vehicles from the inside out with innovative interior concepts. The Audi grandsphere concept,2 which we presented at the IAA in 2021, picks up on these changes and provides an insight into the next generation of Audi design. I am certain that these new vehicle concepts will also make us stand out from the competition and will be the beginning of a new era.

Is automated driving an evolution or a revolution?

 

Automated driving will be the game changer in the automotive industry. I am certain of that. It will completely transform our understanding of mobility.  At the highly automated driving level, the car takes over the driving functions – depending on the situation and national laws and regulations. The driver will then no longer need to intervene within these legally defined system limits. The system enables automated driving. The customer gains the personal space for individual development. Working, relaxing and even sleeping will then be possible. With this in mind, we are developing a completely new interior experience that can be adapted individually and intuitively to customer needs. Seat positions are variable, while operation is by means of voice control, touchscreen and gestures. In the highly automated driving mode, it’s conceivable that the steering wheel, pedals and displays will even be retracted in the future. Automated driving will therefore certainly be a revolution – if not even a disruption. This obviously will not happen overnight. This new functionality will develop gradually and the level of automation will increase bit by bit. It will all start for Audi with the Artemis model in the second half of the decade.

What highlights can we expect in 2022? Can you give us a glimpse at what’s in store? 

 

A major focus for us will be the development of the Premium Platform Electric, our drive architecture for electric vehicles from the B to the D segment. We are entering a decisive phase here and are preparing for the production start of a number of models, including the Audi Q6 e-tron. We are also providing further detailed insight into our future electric portfolio with the Audi A6 Avant e-tron concept2 show car. It offers further proof of the model diversity we can achieve with the PPE. By 2026, we will have more than 20 fully electric vehicles in our range. We are showcasing our vision of urban automated future mobility in April 2022 with the Audi urbansphere concept2.

50 years of “Vorsprung durch Technik” – where does it go from here?

 

50 years is a great anniversary. And we really have developed a lot of technologies during this time that have made the Audi brand what it is today. Just take the Audi Space Frame, for instance, or the quattro drive that we offer in the most varied configurations today in practically all of our models. But a glance back is not enough. I am therefore delighted that “Vorsprung durch Technik” is more than just a claim for us. It’s the expression of an attitude, our intrinsic motivation: think freely, act courageously, be in keeping with the spirit of the time and go beyond it. Our customers have to be able to experience “Vorsprung durch Technik” today and in the future every time they climb inside an Audi. We enable this by giving our products a distinctive and unmistakable DNA. We use this to define the features that make an Audi a true Audi and make it stand out from our competitors – from the quality to the driving features through to the emotional character.

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-neutral3 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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