In pandemic-stricken 2020, Audi sales were down 8.3 percent to 1,692,773 worldwide compared with 2019. However, the brand gained market share in most major markets, including China, where it saw volume increase by 5.4 percent to a record 727,358.
Duesmann and Audi's board have laid out a product cadence that will see internal combustion vehicle sales decline through the decade, while EV sales eventually overtake ICE-powered vehicles in 2030. Duesmann said traditionally powered vehicles would still contribute significantly to profits throughout the decade.
"We are converting our product range to electric cars in all core segments more consistently" than other legacy automakers, Duesmann said. "This is a huge change for the entire company, but even more so, I see it as an opportunity."
During the event, Audi executives said EV architectures wouldn't necessarily follow traditional product life cycles, and they would be designed by systems to be modular and able to be updated as much as possible with software modifications.
Audi is banking in part on the rise of a software stack being developed by sibling company CARIAD that will ultimately drive all EVs across VW Group. It expects the software to open up more revenue streams from consumers willing to pay for temporary upgrades and services in their vehicles. Audi also says it believes additional synergies will flow from the homologation across VW Group onto a single EV modular architecture, called SSP, which can be scaled for use from small city cars to large sedans and will rely on a standardized battery cell design.
"Innovations will reach our customers quicker and faster," Duesmann explained. "Our claim must be that an Audi always feels like an Audi, even if the driver ultimately becomes a passenger."
One of those innovations, Level 4 autonomous driving, will be delivered to consumers by 2026, Duesmann promised. Audi is working on a vehicle it calls Artemis, which it says will feature a Level 4 system developed by VW partner Argo AI.
"Automated driving is the real technological leap forward," Duesmann said. "Where the car assumes the task of driving, that's a huge leap forward. A human brain can do that, but for a computer to do that, it's tricky and difficult. We believe this is going to be the next big thing because it's going to give our customers time — time that they currently spend driving."