The slow rate EVs are launched on Audi claimed the scalp of its CEO last week, and now the luxury automaker is considering an even more dramatic move: buying an electric car platform from a Chinese rival.
Sources in Audi have told Automobilwoche the luxury automaker is in talks with several Chinese automakers about using their EV platform. BYD and BAIC are said to be the two parties currently in talks with Audi.
Oliver Blume, CEO of the Volkswagen Group, has reportedly approved the plan, and it could receive Audi board support as early as next week.
If Audi decides to use an externally developed EV platform, it will likely be used for a clutch of models based on the “Sphere” concept range.
It is not clear at this stage if the model supported by this external architecture will be available worldwide, or will be largely limited to China.
The company already produces several long-wheelbase models specifically for China. These include the A4L, A6L, Q2L and Q5L, but the most distinctive model is the A7L, which not only has more rear legroom, but ditches the liftback for a more traditional sedan rear.
Audi has fallen behind both Mercedes-Benz and BMW, as well as Chinese firms, in the race to bring EVs to market.
The company’s range is currently limited to three models. There’s the volume-selling e-tron Q4 crossover, which is based on the MEB architecture shared with the Volkswagen ID.4 and Cupra Born, the e-tron GT sports sedan which is basically a Porsche Taycan in a business suit, and the Q8 e-tron, which uses art MLB build originally developed for petrol and diesel cars.
In China there is also the Q2L e-tron, which pairs a 100kW/290Nm electric motor with a 38kWh battery pack from CATL.
Delays have plagued the Premium Platform Electric (PPE) architecture co-developed with Porsche. The PPE serves as the basis for the e-tron Q6 crossover, and the e-tron A6 sedan, both of which will debut in 2024 at the earliest.
As the Volkswagen Group has grown to include brands from Skoda and Seat to Porsche, Bentley and Bugatti, the company has embraced platform sharing to reduce costs and increase economies of scale.
Until recently all of these architectures — including the MEB EV platform, the MQB front and all-wheel drive ICE platform, and the MLB longitudinal ICE platform — were developed in-house. Rising development costs have seen the group start looking further afield.
Currently Volkswagen and Ford have an extensive partnership, with Ford developing the platform for the Amarok and Ranger cars, as well as the Transit Custom and the upcoming T7 Transporter van. Instead, Volkswagen’s Caddy serves as the basis for the latest Transit Connect, and Volkswagen’s MEB platform sits below the Euro-only Ford Explorer and an as-yet-unveiled crossover coupe.
In addition, Volkswagen has brought down Bugatti to rival Rimac in a complicated transaction in which Porsche has taken a large minority stake in the Croatian supercar maker.