The TT will not get a direct successor

In the future, you no longer want to sort cars according to length and body cladding, but according to the technological status of the wiring system. Can you explain to our readers what this strategy means for Audi’s future model policy?

First of all, it applies internally. We are firmly convinced that vehicle generations in the future will be strongly oriented toward the vehicle electrical system, because this is where development is progressing so quickly. In the past, it was rather the other way around: An A8 was developed and equipped with all the technical features that were available at the time.

If we look at the Audi model range – do you think you can do without some models, but necessarily need others instead?

Absolutely, yes. On my very first day at work, I discussed our product portfolio with my team. We are sharpening the model range and positioning the Audi brand more clearly. The Group and Audi have made a major commitment to battery electric vehicles. The number of derivatives remains roughly the same. But as pure BEVs (battery electric vehicles, editor’s note) are added, we are cutting back in the area of conventional models. Which certainly hurts in part.

Can you be more specific?

For a premium brand, it is crucial that it is emotionally charged. Electric cars like the Audi e-tron GT will undoubtedly do that. We have already launched other beacons. And yet: models like the A4 and A6 will remain important volume drivers for our brand in the future.

There has always been a rumor that the TT will be repositioned as an SUV?

That’s a rumor I’ve never heard of. And I don’t think it would suit the car either.

The compact sports coupe segment is melting away – the TT and the Roadster model derived from it are therefore facing extinction.

So what’s the situation with this model?

The segment is shrinking and is under a lot of pressure. So of course we have to think about how long we want to offer something there – and whether we don’t have cooler ideas for other segments. I would say that it’s not likely that the TT will get a direct successor.

And what’s happening with the R8?

I’m a big R8 fan. You have to develop the concept further, though. It certainly won’t stay the way the car is currently designed.

What does that mean for Lamborghini? Can they continue to drive this purist combustion engine and cater to emotions because they don’t play such a big role in terms of CO2 due to the low unit numbers?

CO2 plays a role in every segment. And in fact we have to discuss intensively how we can also develop Lamborghini further and make it more modern.

Audi has had a lot of success in the SUV segment. Do you want to develop the brand into an SUV brand in general?

I don’t see Audi as an SUV brand at all. We build what customers want. Of course we see a high demand for SUVs, and we’re meeting that demand. We are a brand that offers customers exceptional cars in all segments.

After the experience you’ve had with pure battery-electric vehicles like the e-tron: Do you think all models in your range should be offered as e-cars?

The e-tron is already a very successful car. I believe e-mobility is here to stay, customers expect it in every segment – and so does the legislator. And that’s why we will also offer purely electric models in every segment. We are coming up with the e-tron GT, a super-performing car, the Q4 e-tron, a high-volume model in the compact class – we are now introducing e-cars year after year.

Audi R8

The R8 will continue to be built in the future – but under Duesmann in a new concept from which Lamborghini should also benefit.

We spoke to battery expert Prof. Maximilian Fichtner after the Tesla Battery Day. He says, “Even if the company achieves only a fraction of the announced growth, that’s still far above what the competition in this country is planning.” What does Audi think of the advancements in cell technology and battery production that Tesla has announced?

It’s no secret that the battery is increasingly becoming one of the most important competitive factors. Accordingly, we are making the battery a core competence within the Volkswagen Group. It is crucial that we comprehensively establish battery cell know-how internally so that we can operate on an equal footing with today’s major battery manufacturers. In total, the Volkswagen Group is providing more than one billion euros for battery cell activities. Of this, around 900 million euros will go to the joint venture with Northvolt to set up a battery cell factory. Volkswagen is investing more than 100 million euros in its own development and production competencies at the Salzgitter site as a first step.

When can cell production by the VW Group (possibly with partners like Tesla) be expected?

From 2024, the production of battery cells should start in the 16 gigawatt-hour battery cell factory that we are building as part of the joint venture with Northvolt.

You have launched Project Artemis, a unit to accelerate the development of additional car models? What does the first model announced for 2024 look like?

You’re welcome to speculate further on that. What I can reveal: It will be groundbreaking for the luxury segment and, of course, fully electric. The concept decision will be made in the short term; we currently have two directions in which it could go. We will do many things differently. With the project, we are establishing new processes for software and hardware. And what we develop there will of course fit into all products, including those throughout the Group.

Audi Zukunft, Audi Landjet

In 2024, the lighthouse project Artemis is expected to produce the first model, a highly efficient electric car with a completely new electronics structure and the new operating system VW.OS.

We are in the midst of a transformation process – and Audi Sport GmbH models, of all things, are selling particularly well. How do you explain that?

After all, we have very different customers – the RS fleet continues to enjoy great popularity. But of course CO2 emissions are also a huge issue for the Red Rhombus. We are working hard to ensure that our customers can continue to feel comfortable in such cars in the future.


We often discuss the positioning of individual Audi models in the editorial team. We feel there is a lack of clear character, regardless of whether it’s an AG or a sports model. Do you share this view?

I do indeed discuss with the experts which character we want in which car. In this respect, you ask a great question, which we are also looking into intensively.


Software development is bundled in the Car.Software organization in the VW Group for all brands. In the future, this area could well be a decisive factor in purchasing decisions. How do you differentiate yourself from the other brands in this respect specifically for Audi?

The underlying electronics architecture and a large part of the functions will be the same, but the man-machine interface will be different for each brand, i.e. the user interface. That’s why such an overarching organization makes a lot of sense for the Group; we are creating enormous synergies with it. Audi is to be the first brand to get highly automated driving functions, for example, with the Artemis project in 2024. After that, this technology will be passed on tailored for all segments.

Audi-Chef Markus Duesmann

Corona changes a lot: The editorial team of Jochen Knecht, Birgit Priemer and Gerd Stegmaier visited Duesmann at Audi headquarters in Ingolstadt; the other members of the editorial team were connected live via Skype in the second part of the conversation.

Peter Mertens, one of your predecessors as Audi’s head of development, says you don’t need 5G everywhere for autonomous driving, but much faster data transmissions in the car and faster computers with less power requirements. So do they also need a or collaborations with specialists like Nvidia the way Daimler does?

We don’t want a development partner that goes deep into the VW.OS. We have to be able to do that ourselves. That’s why we are massively expanding our software competencies in the Car.Software org. But developing more ourselves does not mean doing everything ourselves. The Car.Software-Org will also strengthen its competencies through new technology partnerships. Important for us here are targeted partnerships with tech players for specific topics.


Mercedes plans to offer the new S-Class with the option of Level 3 automated driving starting next summer. You had already announced this for the A8 in 2017, but the legal framework was lacking. Are you following suit now?

We won’t be adapting the current A8 to this technology – that’s no longer possible for reasons of our own quality and safety requirements. In the meantime, we are planning to go one step further. The Artemis project is clearly taking on the pioneering role here.


Where do you see the role of autonomous driving in the future? That I’m automatically taken from A to B and can even sleep while doing so? Or that my car automatically drives to the store while I’m sitting in a restaurant?

In the long term, it will certainly be possible for a car to drive itself to the store. However, the real added value for the customer lies in saving time because they no longer have to drive themselves. And they are willing to pay money for that.


Keyword charging infrastructure: There are repeated rumors that you would be willing to invest money beyond the Ionity cooperation, for example, to charge exclusively at certain charging stations. What are the ideas behind the Artemis project?

That’s one of many ideas. The charging station infrastructure is not yet as far along as it should be. That’s why we need the efforts of the public sector in particular, but also cooperations like Ionity and perhaps a proprietary charging infrastructure for certain places to satisfy the customer. It’s important that everyone goes full throttle in this area.


Many e-car drivers are frustrated by the fact that they also have to use a card to activate a charging station. Shouldn’t Audi develop other solutions?

That is our claim. The e-tron charging service can already be used via app. But our goal is of course to offer even more convenient solutions. That’s why we’re introducing the new Plug and Charge service for the Audi e-tron in the coming months. This will allow the car to authenticate itself at suitable charging stations. A card is no longer necessary. For me, charging is the key to success in the field of electromobility.


Fans of classic combustion engines are always pleased when they get a positive outlook on the subject of synthetic fuels. What is your stance here?

We are fully focused on electromobility, which is the only way we can make a sustainable contribution to climate targets quickly and efficiently. In the long term, synthetic fuels are also conceivable if combustion engines are still to have a place in fifteen years’ time. But this will only be permitted on a climate-neutral basis. Audi has already demonstrated the proof of concept in various pilot plants: e-gas, e-gasoline, e-diesel. Now it’s up to the oil industry to switch from fossil fuels to synthetic fuels. In the long term, these can make vehicles that are already on the market CO2-neutral, and racing series will also switch to synthetic fuels.


Do you already have a launch scenario?

I think that synthetic fuels will play a role primarily in aviation and shipping, as well as in heavy-duty transport over long distances. In the passenger car sector, synthetic fuels will remain the exception rather than the rule.


Do you actually have a phantom pain that Audi is not in Formula 1?

I loved being in Formula 1, I loved it. But no, I don’t have any phantom pain, I think we are well positioned. We’ll take another detailed look at the motorsport commitment. And everything else – you’ll hear from us first.


Markus Duesmann (June 23, 1969 in Heek/NRW) graduated in mechanical engineering from Steinfurt University of Applied Sciences in 1991. He started his career in 1992 as a V12 production engine designer at Mercedes. After a stint with the service provider FEV GmbH in Aachen, he took over the post of head of department for new diesel engines at DaimlerChrysler in Stuttgart in 2004. In 2007, he went to BMW as Head of Formula 1 Powertrain, and in 2016 he became a member of the Board of Management there for Purchasing and Supplier Network. Since April 2020, Duesmann has been Head of Audi AG and Member of the Board of Management for Group Research.


No, that’s exactly right, the internal combustion engine no longer has a future.

Yes, the internal combustion engine will continue to power the majority of our cars for a long time to come, and Audi should keep up with development here as well.


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