Undeniably the new Audi A8 is an incredible car. Technically immaculate whilst effortlessly stylish. And yet, in some ways it feels like a missed opportunity.
Yes, we know…There’s no pleasing some people is there? But that view is not just the opinion of a gaggle of overly-critical automotive journalists; there are many insiders at Audi itself thinking exactly the same.
The ‘argument’ goes: despite the brand’s innovative exploration of highly advanced, exciting possibilities, when push comes to shove, Audi has decided to play it safe, wasting a mass of engineering talent that would push it light years ahead of its competitors.
An Audi city car has been marked as a priority by the firm for well over ten years, but despite a number of concepts being shown off to the media, not one has made it to the production stage. For example, the 2012 production-ready A1 e-tron with rotary range extender was market-ready a full year before the BMW i3. Also, a raft of TT models – coupé, roadster, limited-edition spyder, TTQ crossover, TT Sportback, shooting brake, two-door soft-top – came to nothing.
The dissent within the company came to public attention earlier this year when a letter, allegedly written by 17 top Audi executives, was leaked to a German newspaper. The letter was highly vocal in its criticism of certain board members for their lack of vision, and inability to make decisions and implement change. Also mentioned was the absence of a robust strategy to take the company through the choppy waters the 2020-2025 period promises, as electrification and autonomous vehicles take centre stage.
The frustrations are rooted in the notion that despite huge commercial success, the company has allowed a conservative approach to fester. Tinkering with the status-quo as opposed to taking the bold steps forwards like new kids on the block Tesla. Even compatriots BMW have made huge strides with the iSeries.
Cometh the hour, Audi will release their electric cars and you’d have to be a fool to bet against them being anything other than excellent. But a growing minority feel we should be talking about them now, rather than in a few years time.