Audi EV heads to the Ring to build performance image
Many automakers use Germany's Nurburgring racetrack to enhance their cars' sports cachet. Audi AG is using the Ring this summer to prepare a new type of car for customers.
In late June, Audi's R8 e-tron, a preproduction sports car powered by two electric motors, lapped the twisting 13-mile German racetrack in 8 minutes, 9 seconds. Because the R8 e-tron used is virtually identical to the upcoming production version, Audi claimed the time as a world record for commercially available electric vehicles.
But there was more to the exercise than setting a record.
Audi's feat enables the company to crow about its planned foray into EVs to consumers around the world, including the United States, says Jeff Curry, Audi of America's e-mobility product manager.
"It's important for us to assure customers that the e-tron will have the torque feel and sportiness of the Audi brand," Curry says. "One of the ways we can talk about that is by taking the car to Nurburgring.
"Achieving a record at Nurburgring speaks to our fan base," he says. "People who know about Nurburgring are opinion leaders. They will let other people know."
The publicity boost comes as Audi conducts a U.S. pilot program of its A3 e-tron. Audi is testing the plug-in hybrid in four U.S. cities to learn more about how luxury consumers will drive and recharge their cars in real-life settings.
Audi intends to bring the A3 e-tron to U.S. showrooms in 2014.
"Any time you launch a new brand at Audi, you spend a lot of time hitting the racetracks and creating buzz in social media," Curry says. "The Nurburgring is important. It's an iconic symbol of technology and speed."
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