Audi's Keogh says automakers can be disruptors

2016 AUTOMOTIVE NEWS WORLD CONGRESS

Keogh: “If you make a leap to something new, it’s a huge opportunity.”

Photo credit: Joe Wilssens

DETROIT — The president of Audi of America warned automakers to embrace the dramatic technological changes that are remaking the industry, and to beware of continuing business as usual amid the U.S. market’s record vehicle sales.

“Right now a very powerful wave is carrying this industry,” Scott Keogh said at the Automotive News World Congress here.

But the auto business is being reshaped by new developments such as automated driving, car sharing and the emergence of new players such as Apple, Google, Tesla and Uber, he noted.

“We need to make a choice — keep riding the wave or jump to something else,” Keogh said. “If you make a leap to something new, it’s a huge opportunity … I believe we in the auto industry can be the disruptors.”

Keogh pointed to his own company’s efforts at the Detroit auto show to break new ground, such as its unveiling of the h-tron quattro concept, a hydrogen powered crossover likely to arrive in production form in 2018. It’s the latest model in a widening portfolio of zero-emissions vehicles Audi is launching.

Also at the Detroit show, Audi showed the e-tron quattro, a battery-powered crossover expected to have a range of 310 miles on a single charge, and the A3 e-tron, a plug-in hybrid that is just arriving in the U.S. market.

Keogh said Audi is pushing ahead with electric cars even as EV sales remain sluggish and gasoline prices fall under $ 2 a gallon. Commodity prices “do go up and oil will go up” in the future, Keogh said. “We believe electrification of this industry is inevitable.”

He estimated that electric vehicles will rise to make up 25 percent of Audi sales over the next decade. Audi is betting it can win over customers by pushing the technology envelope in many areas — from futuristic instrument panels and advanced smartphone integration to apps and connected services.

“The debate isn’t ‘Is the car electric?'” Keogh said. “It’s going to be: ‘Is the car cool as hell?’”

You can reach Neal E. Boudette at NBoudette@crain.com.


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