With Markus Duesmann, CEO Herbert Diess has an ally – or a possible successor – for the conversion of Volkswagen to digital and electric cars based on the Tesla model. Duesmann, who has been CEO of the VW subsidiary Audi since April 2020 and responsible for research and development across the group, has “gasoline in his blood”, but also “electricity in his veins”, he became at a media event this week introduced. And in the subsequent interview he made it clear that Audi wants to be something like the second Tesla by the end of the 2030s at the latest.
Software like Tesla’s “greatest revolution”
As it is increasingly becoming clear, this not only requires different drives, but also a different approach to digitalization. Even today’s combustion cars are full of digital technology, but unlike Tesla, it is distributed over hundreds of small control units and individual pieces of software, most of which come from suppliers. According to his statements in the interview, Duesmann has both aspects firmly in view. When it comes to drives, it gives neither hydrogen nor hybrid cars a chance in the long term. He would like politics to have “technological clarity” instead of the openness still invoked by other parts of the German auto industry.
According to Duesmann, the bigger challenge lies in software. Tesla approached this topic very differently with a central computer for most of the functions and largely its own programming. At Audi too, development is now structured according to software instead of hardware components as it used to be; that was “the greatest revolution,” he said. At the same time, Duesmann made it clear that Audi, as part of the Volkswagen group, not only wants to compete with Tesla, but also with pure IT companies such as Google, which are also penetrating the automotive sector. The goal is to have its own electrical system and operating system. To this end, the around 5000 software developers in the VW Group have been brought together in the new Car Software Org organization.
Audi and VW have great hopes for the Artemis project, in which, according to earlier statements, an electric car is to be built by 2024 that is at least equal to Tesla in every respect. With electric and autonomous driving as well as on-board network and user interface it should set “standards” and even show a lead, said Duesmann. In response to the moderator’s skeptical question about how Audi wanted to demonstrate its lead over Tesla with a car that will not come until 2024, he referred to the e-tron: This electric car sells five times as often in Germany as the Tesla Model S and Model X combined .
At least one Audi electric car per year
Whether Audi is too early or too late remains to be seen – in any case, give full throttle, said Duesmann in a perhaps not entirely appropriate formulation. From now on, at least one new Audi electric car will come onto the market every year. The e-tron GT will be presented next week as the “absolute highlight”, and the Q4 e-tron, a “smaller car with a long range”, will come in summer.
According to reports, Audi is already in the process of setting deadlines internally for the end of production of its various combustion models. Duesmann did not want to give an exact date for the last fossil Audi, but gave as an estimate the late 2030s, i.e. 2039 at the latest. The share of purely electric cars at Audi is currently around 5 percent. A value of 30-40 percent is planned for 2025, and it should increase to 50 percent by 2030. He did it “out of conviction”, explained Duesmann, because he wanted individual transport that was as CO2-neutral as possible, and battery-electric vehicles were the right technology for this.