CHICAGO — The size of the global auto industry could triple over the next 30 years as proven electrification and mobility technologies mature, which is driving current investments in those areas, Audi of America's head of electrification says.
Speaking at the Chicago Auto Show, Cody Thacker, who's been with Audi of America for the last seven years, said the pace of electrification is increasing and barriers to adoption of electric vehicles are falling at a quickening rate.
"Why are auto businesses making huge investments in this technology? Because today, the auto industry is a $2 trillion industry. By 2050, with these changes, it is estimated to be a $7 trillion industry, and we're all fighting for a piece of that," Thacker told the Economic Club of Chicago on Thursday.
Thacker oversees development of infrastructure to sell and service electric vehicles for the German premium brand and its dealers. He is also responsible for partnerships that help Audi customers navigate a world with electric vehicles.
Thacker says the early days of electrification are much like the "wild West" when settlers raced to grab land in the U.S. to secure their futures. He argues automakers are at that point now.
"It took five years for the industry to sell the first million EVs," Thacker said. "By 2020, we will have reached 10 million EVs sold, and we will be selling another million EVs every four months. And this is just the beginning," Thacker said, adding that there will be more than 500 EV models on sale globally by 2021.
He predicted that EVs will hold a 60 percent market share in the U.S. by 2040 — that's the rough equivalent of 10 million units a year at current rates. While cost, range, charging infrastructure and consumer apathy remain barriers to EV sales, those barriers are weakening as battery technology improves and grows cheaper and charging infrastructure expands.
Eventually, he said, "done right, the EV ownership experience will be markedly better than the fueling ecosystem today," Thacker said.
Audi began selling the e-tron, its first battery-electric vehicle, last year in the U.S. to mixed results. The brand sold 5,369 e-trons in the U.S. in 2019 after the electric crossover went on sale in April. It has plans to expand its EV lineup beginning this year with the introduction of the Audi e-tron Sportback, and next year with the e-tron GT.