Due to delivery problems with battery cells, Audi had to stop production of the e-tron quattro in Brussels in spring. In an interview, the new Audi boss said that the problem has been solved and spoke about the goals of the Artemis project.
“Since the beginning of May, we have been running two shifts in Brussels again,” Duesmann said in an interview with the Handelsblatt newspaper. “We have learned that the customers mainly wanted the larger batteries anyway.” As is well known, Audi offers the e-tron and e-tron Sportback with two battery sizes; the model sold as the “55” comes gross to 95 kWh (net: 86.5 kWh), the smaller “50” comes to 71 kWh.
Supply problems with the battery cells have affected a number of manufacturers and were reportedly due to the LG Chem plant in Poland. Quality problems are said to have occurred there during the construction of new production facilities, which led to a short term drop in production. Audi uses LG Chem’s pouch cells for the large 95-kWh battery, while the e-tron quattro uses 50 prismatic cells from Samsung SDI.
In view of the effects of supply problems at such an important supplier, one might think that Audi would broaden its purchasing activities to better absorb such effects. Instead, Duesmann says: “We had two suppliers for two battery sizes – that didn’t work out as it should have. At the same time, in the interview, the Audi boss did not extrapolate on the matter or indicate what consequences it could have for future models.
As a sales target for the e-tron, Duesmann mentioned 40,000 units by the end of the year. “We sold a good 17,000 units of the Audi e-tron in the first half of the year,” Duesmann said as an interim result. The e-tron is the market leader for electric SUVs in Europe.
According to the former BMW board of directors, Audi has not overslept electric mobility. “It hurts to hear that again and again,” says Duesmann. “But for a long time, there was no buyer group and no charging infrastructure. Now the topic is getting into gear.” The Audi boss also does not see the Gigafactory under construction in Brandenburg as a wake-up call. “Those who needed this to wake up were sound asleep,” says Duesmann. “The truth is that Tesla’s innovative power was not properly appreciated.”
However, the former Formula 1 engineer does not see Tesla’s innovative power in the battery cells, “We have mastered chemistry too”. “When it comes to computers and software architecture, Tesla certainly has a two-year lead, and in automated driving as well,” says Duesmann. “However, we take our task very seriously, especially in this field.”
What is to be achieved with Artemis
Audi wants to catch up here with the Artemis project initiated by Duesmann. The first product (a “highly efficient electric car”) should be ready by 2024 and may carry the name of the Audi A9 is already being traded as the name. “It’s not just about electric mobility, it’s not just about digitalization, it’s not just about autonomous driving. It’s about combining everything,” says Duesmann. “We already have very concrete ideas about what the car should look like, but I’m not going to say anything about that yet.”
The core of the project is that Artemis, around Alex Hitzinger, operates outside the usual Audi organisation. “We will work with the latest processes and faster procedures,” says Duesmann. “Artemis is an experimental laboratory for technology and processes.” Like a racing team that develops a highly complex racing car for the coming season within a few months, the Artemis team should be able to work with more agility. Duesmann speaks of “new forms of cooperation” and that they will “work a lot with data”. “It’ll be a centre of excellence like nothing we’ve ever had before.”
Artemis is to deliver a finished car within the very short period of time required by automotive product cycles, including the software. Duesmann does not seem to favour working a lot with updates in key areas such as autonomous driving. “When our customers let go of the wheel, it’s a huge responsibility,” says the Audi boss. “Working here with beta versions or promises is out of the question.”
handelsblatt.com (interview in German)