Audi’s Conventional-looking Electric Crossover Will Remain (Mainly) Hidden From Public View
Marketing materials aside, visitors to Audi dealers in the near future won’t see much of the new E-Tron crossover. They’ll have to ask about it first, and, if they’re in luck, there’ll be a demonstrator on hand.
Audi’s proceeding cautiously with its mass-market EV. For now, it’s only taking refundable reservations from customers, hoping that keeping the E-Tron out of the normal vehicle flow will help it turn a profit — a problem facing most EVs.
Speaking to Automotive News, Audi of America President Scott Keogh said the electric car isn’t ready for the traditional dealer sales model.
“I think it would be a beautiful world if you can go to a dealer — and we’d like to find that beautiful world — with zero floorplan [expense] and proper, full gross on the car,” said Keogh. “This would be a beautiful state; so let’s go see if we can find this dream state.”
Until the world arrives, Audi’s 303 U.S. dealers will continue taking $1,000 reservations on the vehicle, which lands on these shores in the middle of next year. Retailers can go about the business of selling A3s and Q5s without worrying about vehicle allocation and being stuck with the task of moving a potentially unpopular vehicle off the lot. With other EVs on the way, the experiment is a useful one.
That said, Keogh credits Audi’s dealer network for improving the E-Tron’s chances for success.
“The same network that got us to double our sales, and got us to 200,000 units [annually], is going to be the same network that’s going to lead this electric revolution for us,” he said. “And that’s a massive competitive advantage — an onboard and engaged network.”
Will dealers ever stock the E-Tron? Possibly, but it will only be if the dealer wants it. An Audi spokesperson said U.S. dealers can order E-Trons for their inventory and have demos for test drives. If a retailer feels that having an E-Tron on hand is advantageous, the automaker won’t say no.
The 2019 Audi E-Tron carries a U.S. MSRP of $74,800 before destination.