Audi expects the U.S. to be the largest market for its new electric four-door coupe, one of the most powerful cars Volkswagen AG’s premium brand has ever built. It offers slightly less-blazing acceleration than Tesla Inc.’s latest flagship sedan, the Plaid version of the Model S, which Elon Musk has promoted to those seeking speed beyond “ludicrous” mode.
“The car is predestined for the U.S. market,” Audi’s global sales chief Hildegard Wortmann told reporters in a webcast. She expects North America to account for a sales share of “50% plus,” followed by Europe and Asian markets including China, South Korea and Japan.
Flanking the e-tron SUV with a niche sportscar like the GT is intended to showcase Audi’s latest design and technology rather than boosting EV volumes, she said. Annual deliveries of the GT will probably be just below 10,000 cars. Audi will introduce its next high-volume EV—a compact crossover dubbed Q4 e-tron—later this year.
In a follow-up interview, Wortmann clarifies the point is more about communicating a progressive mindset than pure performance: “It’s that you want to do something good, you want to contribute to the solution. With the e-tron GT our customers can see this holistic picture of what the Audi brand stands for.”
Volkswagen has put Audi at the center of its reworked strategy to take on Tesla under the leadership of Markus Duesmann, who joined from German rival BMW AG just over a year ago. The e-tron GT is based on the underpinnings of sister brand Porsche’s Taycan model and flanks the e-tron SUV and Sportback that outsold Tesla in Norway last year before the Scandinavian country rose to Super Bowl fame over its crave for battery-powered vehicles.
After a bumpy start, VW group is ramping up output of purely battery-powered cars this year with new models including the VW ID.4 and more spacious version of the Taycan. The e-tron GT is manufactured at an Audi site in Germany that specializes in exclusive, niche cars alongside the brand’s combustion-era hero, the R8 roadster, which faces an uncertain future as Duesmann has vowed to accelerate the shift toward electric vehicles.
Featuring a fresh iteration of Audi’s distinctive front grille, accentuated rear fenders, and more sculptured design compared to the R8 or other more clean-cut sportscars, the e-tron GT will hit showrooms this spring, with prices in Germany starting at €99,800 ($121,000). Its LG Chem Ltd.-supplied batteries will offer up to 383 kilometers (238 miles) of range, according to unofficial EPA estimates.
A sportier RS version commands at least €138,200, a price tag similar to the Model S Plaid, touted by Tesla as the fastest-accelerating car in the world. Audi has said the RS offers 637 horsepower with ‘overboost’ and can accelerate from zero to 100 kilometers per hour in 3.3 seconds, compared to the 2.1 seconds claimed for the Plaid. Top speed is 250 km/hr (155 mph).
The e-tron GT’s acceleration was still fast enough to make VW Chief Executive Officer Herbert Diess smile and giggle during a test drive he promoted on LinkedIn last week, where he praised features including 800-volt fast charging and optional vegan interior that uses recycled materials rather than leather. He predicted the car “will take many customers away from the combustion world forever.”