The Tesla Model S will have some competition from Audi in 2021

The Tesla Model S will have some competition from Audi in 2021

Considering all the turbulence which beset the Chinese and German markets in 2019, a 1.8% year on year rise in worldwide deliveries was a remarkable result for Audi. Even though a large percentage of those 1,845,550 vehicles were SUVs, cars - the A4 L in particular - were especially popular in China, the brand's number one market. And the most important new model for 2020 will be a car, the new A3 being imminent.

"After a mixed first half of the year, we successfully caught up in the second half," Hildegard Wortmann, the firm's head of Sales and Marketing stated recently. "Although the demands placed upon us will remain high in 2020, we have set the course for further growth," she added.

Even coming off a record year in China for the brand, another rise in worldwide sales is going to be a tough challenge given what the Coronavirus will likely have done to that market by the time numbers for the first quarter are in.

Cars

The second generation A1 Sportback hit the market in the fourth quarter of 2018. At 4,029mm long, this five-door hatchback remains Audi's smallest car. It was joined by the A1 citycarver in October last year, that model being an experiment to see how much demand there could be for a higher-priced variant distinguished by a slightly elevated ride height. Both are due for mid-cycle facelifts in 2022 with the next generation expected in late 2025.

The next A3 Sportback (five-door) goes on sale later this year after its public premiere next month at the Geneva motor show. It will be followed by a new A3 sedan. There won't be replacements for the A3 (three-door) and A3 Cabriolet due to cost cutting and slow sales of the current cars. However, there might be an A3 citycarver, which could instead be called A3 Sportback Coupé. All derivatives will use the MQB A/B Evo architecture and share powertrains with the eighth generation Golf.

The A4 has done well to keep selling so strongly in the face of strong competition from the newer BMW 3 Series as well as the Mercedes C-Class, and in some countries, the Tesla Model 3. Audi has already facelifted both the A4 and S4 twice since 2015. The first was a minor update in 2018 with a more extensive facelift announced in May 2019. There won't be anything more than minor powertrain updates now until the next generation series goes on sale during the fourth quarter of 2022. China's extended wheelbase A4 L will follow in 2023.

The A5 Coupé and S5 Coupé date to 2016 and were facelifted in 2019 so these cars still have three to four years left in their production cycles. That also applies to the A5 Sportback and S5 Sportback. There could be a second, minor facelift in 2022.

Audi will soon have been building the current shape A6 for two years, which means a facelift is due to happen in the fourth quarter of 2021. The big sedan and wagon has the same MLB Evo platform as the A4 and A7 Sportback. China's extended wheelbase (3024mm) A6 L premiered at the Guangzhou motor show in November 2018, going on sale in China two months later. The next generation sedans and estate are due in 2025.

The latest S6, announced in April 2019, continues the tradition of losing two cylinders with every new generation, the V8 being dropped in favour of a V6. There is a twist, though: the predecessor's 4.0-litre V8 was replaced by two engine choices: a supercharged 2.9-litre petrol or a 3.0-litre diesel, each with 48V electrics. The 2.9 TFSI is mainly for Asia, North America and the Middle East, while the TDI is mainly for European countries. The petrol S6 has outputs of 331kW (450hp) and 600Nm (442.5 lb-ft) of torque, while equivalents for the diesel are 257kW (349PS) and 700Nm (516.3 lb-ft).

The life cycle of the S6 and S6 Avant (there is no S6 L) is in sync with the A6 so the successors should be launched during the first half of 2025. Could they even be powered by a four-cylinder engine? It's certainly possible, in which case the series will have shifted over multiple generations from I5, to V8, to V10, to V6 and then I4 engines.

The second generation A7 Sportback, released in 2018, is again a five-door hatchback version of the A6. As for the S7 Sportback, there are two powertrain choices, as per the S6. There is also an A7 plug-in hybrid which is called 55 TFSI e quattro.

Audi should facelift the A7 and S7 in the second half of 2021. It is by no means a given that there will be a third generation: the current A7 might instead be discontinued in or even before 2025 if buyers in Europe turn against combustion-engine cars of this size in favour of EVs.

Please see the PLDB link towards the end of this report for the RS 6 and RS 7. Details of the life cycles of the A8 and S8 can also be found in PLDB (see link below).

Electric cars

Audi may create an A2 e-tron later in the 2020s if it sees profit potential in a 4.2m long fully electric hatchback. As of now though, the company has other priorities and the A2 name remains dormant. For different reasons, an electric car in the C segment isn't on the launchpad either. If high-margin versions of the new ID.3 start to prove big money spinners for Volkswagen then it's likely that Audi will enter this segment too with an A3-sized EV.

There are surprisingly few known details of what rumours continue to claim will be a car to take on the Tesla Model 3. The D segment e-tron, a sedan and/or hatchback, is expected to be 4.6-4.8m long and based on the PPE architecture rather than MEB. The sales launch will likely be in 2023. Audi could invent a new name for this model, as it did when launching the original TT.

Coming much sooner than the 4.7m long electric sedan will be the larger e-tron GT. This 5m long electric hatchback was previewed in concept form at the LA auto show in November 2018. Audi says the production version will be available in dealerships from early 2021. In July 2019, it was confirmed that the car would be manufactured alongside the R8 at Audi Sport GmbH's production facilities in the Böllinger Höfe "from late 2020."

The e-tron GT might also be available in S and RS forms. The production model should be revealed at this year's LA auto show in November.

The potential business case for a third generation R8 continues to be examined. Should this car go ahead, production likely wouldn't commence until 2023. The R8 mark 3 could even become a battery-electric vehicle. Audi is rumoured to be working with Rimac on this project. On the other hand, the e-tron GT will be manufactured in the same plant as the current R8, is likely to be priced around the same level, and even if demand is a mere few thousand a year, that would be an improvement upon the R8. So the e-tron GT could effectively replace the V10-powered supercar, production of the latter potentially ending in 2021 or 2022.

The model name of R9 or R10 has been suggested for a potential hypercar. Production in the hundreds per annum would take place in Germany at Audi Böllinger Höfe near Neckarsulm. Such a car is probably as far off as mid-decade.

Reports for many other manufacturers' future models are grouped in the OEM product strategy summaries section of just-auto.com.

Future product program intelligence

More detail on past, current and forthcoming models can be found in PLDB. That includes the Audi cars which were not discussed in the above report.

This was the third feature in a series examining the current and future models of Volkswagen AG's passenger vehicle brands. The first one looked at Volkswagen's global cars range, including future EVs, while the second examined VW brand SUVs, crossovers and pick-ups. The next one will focus on Audi's SUVs, including electric ones.

Expert analysis

just-auto PLDB - vehicle cycle plan database (annual subscription)

just-auto PLDB - vehicle cycle plan database (annual subscription)

PLDB from just-auto.com is a cost effective, vehicle cycle plan database, showing the production life of all major current and future vehicle models produced (or to be produced) globally by all brands...read more

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