Audi aims to become the “Ford of the future”

The 130-year-old automotive company Audi started out as a supplier to the automaker. But then, in the late 1970s, Audi decided to launch its own car production facility. And by the time that happened, Audi had put some leadership talent into the company to help make it a success. That same talent also made Audi the first in Germany to build electric cars and it is now a market leader in green technology.

Marc Lichte, Audi’s in-house designer since 2013, knows how hard it is to find these kinds of people. He hopes that his new company Lucid is able to put together a talented, creative team as part of a $380 million investment and move the company from being a purveyor of high-tech luxury cars to a modern tech giant.

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“We want to make Lucid a global leader in electrification, autonomous driving and mobility solutions that connect people with the internet of things,” Lichte says. “We’re committed to make Lucid the Ford of the future.”

Automakers are trying to get ahead of the game in the race to build electric vehicles and achieve zero emissions. The quickest way to make that happen is to bring electric vehicles to market fast. And cars are a prime candidate for the rapid, highly efficient redesign required to make electric vehicles cost competitive with gasoline-powered vehicles.

Photo: Das Interpreter/Ulf Sirborn/Flickr

Audi has already been charging full steam ahead toward building its electric future. The automaker introduced its first EV last year, the e-tron. The e-tron can travel up to 372 miles on a single charge and is priced at $67,300. Like other EVs, the car can also be charged quickly. Audi says it can achieve 80 percent charge in 30 minutes from a high-power wall charger.

So far, the e-tron’s lineup is limited to three cars. If Lucid can put on these kinds of prices, that will set it apart from its competition. But the executive has big plans for the brand. In the coming months, Lucid plans to launch a wave of electric vehicles and bring them to market quickly.

“Audi was 50 years ahead of the game with its adoption of electric mobility,” Lichte says. “But Audi made it work by working with the industry to design innovative vehicles — and by enabling its company to take full advantage of the talents and technology that come from this collaboration.”

Lucid, the new brand within Audi, is already clearly feeling the pressure from the competition. In response to a potential downturn in demand for EVs, Renault and Nissan announced they would push out their electric-vehicle program at the end of 2018. The two carmakers claimed that demand was low enough and that there weren’t enough new battery suppliers. They remain committed to the technology though, as there is growing excitement in both advanced EVs and local full autonomy.

Photo: lucid /h l le journier

And as these EVs hit the market, the focus is turning towards the full-bodied self-driving cars that will be an important part of the future. After successful trials of its self-driving car, Tesla made its first deliveries of vehicles with self-driving features in January. The vehicles are not yet truly autonomous, though, because Tesla still has to go through final safety tests.

“We’re preparing for our next moment, when full autonomy becomes the reality,” Lichte says. “We’re working on turning our vision into reality.”

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