Audi CEO on his biggest challenges: "I’ve never seen anything like it"

Insiders have suggested that Hoffmann’s move was a response to the software issues that delayed the Q6 E-tron, but Döllner says: “We decided to put more emphasis on our Formula 1 project and Oliver Hoffmann is the right person to do that. He started that project and, as we step in even more intensively, he’s the right one to lead that project: he’s a racer; he’s an engineer; he’s a developer.”

Just as significantly, long-time Audi design chief Marc Lichte will shortly be replaced by former JLR design director Massimo Frascella.

“Marc did an excellent and outstanding job for Audi, with really strong products on the market,” says Döllner. “It’s not that anything is wrong, but we thought it might be time after 10 years – for design, that’s a historic era – for a change.”

Frascella will find much to keep him busy when he starts his new job: the Q6 E-tron and recently revealed A3 facelift are the first of 20 new or updated models due by the end of 2025.

Those will include both new EVs, including the A6 E-tron saloon, and combustion-engined models, including the new A5 and Q5 that will be launched this year. Notably, those two models will use what Audi is calling a new ICE platform named Premium Performance Combustion (PPC).

Although the timeframe has been slightly stretched from the plans announced by Duesmann a year ago, Döllner says that the challenge is still “huge – I’ve never seen anything like it in my career so far. I’m sure when we look back we’ll say: ‘How did we do that?’”

SUVs will be a major priority early in the offensive – especially in the US – but Döllner insists that Audi will not simply become an SUV maker. “The core of our brand will be three low platforms and three SUV platforms,” he says.

And yes, that means Avant estate models will continue. “Avant will be part of the Audi DNA as long as our customers ask for it,” says Döllner. “It could be an interesting opportunity, because there are not so many [electric] ones around.”

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