Dealership group rushes judgment on Audi e-tron sales, patience required

Roger Penske, CEO of Penske Automotive Group, told analysts last month that the Audi e-tron is not selling as fast as he would like. But 4,000 sales over the past half-year for a relatively unknown new, luxury EV seems about right.

In February, Audi announced that it had 20,000 reservations worldwide for its e-tron electric SUV. That might not be Cybertruck levels, but it seemed solid. With about 10,000 sales reported so far in Europe – and the e-tron outselling all other EVs in Norway last month, these numbers seem like small victories.

We learned in April that Audi faced challenges with battery supplies. Its annual production was reduced to about 45,000 units.

So, on one side of the argument, you have Penske saying the Audi e-tron is too expensive:

“I think there is some sticker shock. The customers that thought these would be more affordable, like a Q5. But when you’re looking at an $80,000 vehicle in a $1,500 payment, it gets really aggressive from the OEM standpoint.

“From a margin standpoint, I know one of our stores in Northern California probably will sell six or seven [E-Trons in October] and has got 30 in stock. So that certainly has pressure on margin.”

Meanwhile, the new Audi of America President Daniel Weissland said the brand is “still at the beginning of a transformational phase into electrification.” Weissland asked for patience.

“We’re pretty happy with our E-Tron sales numbers. November is the strongest month ever of E-Tron sales, so we really see a tick up. The question is always, ‘What do you compare it with?’ You can’t compare the E-Tron with a car, which is $20,000 or $30,000 less expensive.”

Weissland understands a bigger point, which goes beyond a short-term pinch on margins.

“We want to protect the planet. We want to provide a sustainable future for our children, our grandchildren. The more brands joining the electrification road map, the better it is.”

Electrek’s Take

The headline from Automotive News was, “Audi E-Tron’s slow start worrisome.” Jalopnik riffed on that with “The Audi E-Tron Isn’t Exactly A Mega-Hit Yet.”

The keyword is “yet.” The e-tron, which starts at $74,800, is a gorgeous, ultra-safe, and comfortable electric SUV. I loved driving it on a recent 1,000-mile road trip. The e-tron is in a great spot to capture luxury buyers who might not want a Tesla.

Tesla continually captures the most energetic part of the market. Other segments will take longer to catch on to EVs. That’s okay.

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Avatar for Bradley Berman Bradley Berman

Bradley writes about electric cars, autonomous vehicles, smart homes, and other tech that’s transforming society. He contributes to The New York Times, SAE International, Via magazine, Popular Mechanics, MIT Technology Review, and others.