Moments after management consulting firm KPMG released a survey of global automotive executives early Thursday morning, Martin Sander, head of sales for Audi Americas (and past president of Audi Canada) delivered a speech that could have been cribbed from the survey’s executive summary.
The future for the automotive world hinges on three trends — electric power, digitization, and autonomous vehicles — he said, at the first news conference of the CIAS media preview day.
Executives surveyed for the KPMG study identified self-driving cars, connectivity, and digitization as their three trends.
For Audi, the impetus to move away from internal combustion to alternative fuels, like electricity and hydrogen cells, stems from the growing urbanization of their potential customer base. With the growth of massive megacities, along with hundreds of new mid-size urban centres, Sander said there will be increasing regulatory pressure to reduce traffic congestions and greenhouse gas emissions.
In Audi’s vision, electrification will be a key success factor in achieving these goals, creating lower emissions, allowing for better design, and still delivering driving thrills, thanks to electric vehicles’ potential for massive torque and acceleration.
He cited Audi’s e-tron Quattro concept car that will do zero to 100 km/h in 4.6 seconds and plans to bring its first battery-powered EV to market in 2016 as examples of the company’s commitment.
Digitization, the second trend, is important as the world becomes increasingly populated by connected objects. Sander noted that there are more than 100 million configuration options available for Audi buyers and this kind of complexity can only be “managed digitally and presented virtually.”
To that end, Canada will be the first market for Audi with digital elements in almost every showroom across the country.
He also said that digitally activated options will be a big new trend on future cars, and this will increase resale values, as cars will become reconfigurable for second and subsequent owners.
Audi has been testing autonomous driving, using an RS7 they call “Bobby.” It has done well in track testing, managing 240 km/h with no humans aboard.
Sander said autonomous features will be built into production cars going forward as options to start with. The next generation A8 will have self-driving technology “in place and ready to use,” he asserted.
These Audi on-trends will motivate more change in the auto industry in the next seven years than took place in the past 70, Sander said.
“The car industry will become the most exciting in the world.”
Almost as an afterthought, Audi Canada President Daniel Weissland also announced the launch of Audi Sport in Canada this year.
Beginning with the 2017 RS7 and R8, these cars mark Audi’s attempt to position itself as the “sportiest” in the premium market.
The new R8 will be the most powerful production Audi built, with its 5.2-litre, V10 engine, tuned to 540 horsepower in the basic model and 610 hp in the R8, V10 plus model. The 610-hp car boasts a 0-to-100 km/h run of 3.2 seconds.
The RS7 is no slouch itself, with a 40-hp boost over the previous model year, jumping to 605 hp and a 3.7-second 0-to-100 sprint.
Freelance writer Emily Atkins is a regular contributor to Toronto Star Wheels. To reach her, email email@example.com and put her name in the subject line.