Last week Audi significantly chose the tech-savvy city of Shenzhen, China over Europe for the global reveal of its Q8 SUV as part of the Audi Summit.
Shenzhen is China’s Silicon Valley being home to the world’s third largest smartphone company, Huawei as well as Weibo and WeChat, the local versions of Facebook and WhatsApp.
We asked Audi Chairman, Rupert Stadler why this was such an important event.
Aside from China’s love of SUVs, why was the Q8 revealed here?
It’s always a pleasure to be in China not because it’s Audi’s largest single market but because it feels like coming home after 30 years of doing business here.
Areas like Shenzhen highlight the key challenges for urban mobility in the 21st century. By 2025, we plan to sell 800,000 electric cars and plug-in hybrids meaning that by the middle of the next decade every third Audi will be electrified.
Why do we need the Q8?
When we see what’s happening not only in China but also in the US and Europe, the trend toward SUVs is on-going. In the same way the A7 and A8 live together, the Q7 is a premium product and we can now expand further with the Q8.
There is still expectation that, especially in the US, SUVs will grow above 50 per cent, therefore I think there is still substantial room for both models. Q7 is for seven people while Q8 is sportier and will be an iconic model in the SUV segment because it’s emotional and has terrific design.
You’ve invested heavily in China with a separate R&D office and design studio and partnered with Huawei to deliver on connectivity. When will we see examples of this in public?
China is serious about tackling its pollution issues, as are we. At the global Audi Summit in Brussels next August, we will premiere our first fully electric car, the e-tron and during the next decade, every third Audi worldwide will not be owned but shared through our smartphone app, Audi On Demand.
How different is it to sell a car like the Q8 to the Chinese compared with other regions?
We are aware that more than half of the Chinese customers are ready to change car brands if that brand doesn’t offer the right digital services. With Q8 we are defining the digital user experience of tomorrow and so I am sure they will like what the Q8 has to offer.
Given we are in the hub of the world’s tech future, what’s next?
Autonomous driving is the biggest breakthrough in automotive history. It’s a game changer that’s reshaping technology and our mobility needs. In just three years from now, we will present our first Level 5, fully autonomous pilot fleet.
This will be based on the Audi Aicon long-distance lounge and will celebrate our claim of “Vorsprung durch Technik” turning 50 in 2021. Aicon will expand our leadership in autonomous driving as we develop a new urban philosophy that will include piloted parking and new premium delivery services direct into the car such as parcels, groceries or even hot meals.