Audi Showcases Electric SUV to Make it 'Easy' for Consumers to Go Electric

April 17, 2019

By Chloe Aiello

People shopping for electric vehicles will find something familiar this week at the New York Auto Show in Audi's e-tron ー an electric SUV that one Audi America exec said he hopes will make it easier for customers to transition to electric vehicles.

"One thing that we really focused on with this car was to make it as easy as possible for a combustion customer to look a the car and say, 'I'm OK with switching into an [electric vehicle].' And that's why we made it an SUV," Filip Brabec, vice president of product management at Audi of America, told Cheddar.

Audi brought a slate of vehicles to the New York Auto Show, but Brabec said the e-tron, with its familiar SUV features, was the most important ー but not because the future will necessarily be all-electric.

"You can't sit here today and say we 're all going to be all-electric in 10 years, 15 years, 30 years, whatever, but it is a transition," he said.

Automotive expert and analyst Lauren Fix agreed that carmakers will have to be ready for a more blended future with regard to electric vehicles, especially since they haven't had great traction in the U.S. And if the Trump administration reduces or eliminates federal subsidies for electric vehicles, it will make it especially difficult to sell the sometimes pricey vehicles.

"The bigger picture is electric vehicles need to have that [tax] incentive in order to get the wealthier people to buy them ー to create a buzz essentially ー and that's what I think they're losing," Fix told Cheddar. "If the federal government pulls it, which President Trump is talking about, it's going to impact electric vehicles forever."

Several carmakers, among them Tesla ($TSLA) and General Motors ($GM), have already maxed out the number of electric vehicles they were permitted to sell with full tax credits. The incentives were then halved. The White House in December declared eliminating electric vehicle subsidies "a matter of our policy," following layoffs by GM, Reuters reported.

Brabec said that no matter which way the cards fall, Audi is prepared for the future.

"What we're making sure of, of course, is that we have a very good representation in the current portfolio of combustion vehicles, but that we're, of course, making very clear methodical steps into the EV space," Brabec said.

For full interview click here.