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Audi EV strategist: Dealers now see value in EVs, but a lot more work needed

Cody Thacker, the chief of Audi of America’s electric-vehicle initiative, said the pace of EV adoption will rapidly increase in the next couple of years. He delivered his remarks at the Economic Club of Chicago last week.

Thacker said:

It took five years for the industry to sell the first million EVs. By 2020, we will have reached 10 million EVs sold, and we will be selling another million EVs every four months. And this is just the beginning.

The battle to get dealers to appreciate and actively sell EVs is changing, according to Thacker.

Two years ago, the conversations with dealers were different. There was more pushback. Now, dealers are seeing the value. We want to get them comfortable enough to take that leap of faith. It’s something we’re all trying to figure out.

Despite making a strong case for electric vehicles, Audi sold a relatively low 5,369 e-tron EVs in 2019. Sales of the e-tron started in April.

“There is a joy of driving EVs because of their driving dynamics, quickness, and quietness,” said Thacker. “It’s a more serene experience.”

However, Thacker suggested that EVs are still more costly than combustion vehicles, and that a lack of public EV charging was an obstacle. “Range anxiety is real and has to be addressed,” he said. Thacker acknowledged that about 80% of EV charging takes place at home.

Thacker said that by 2025, a third of Audi’s product portfolio will be electric. Similar past statements from Audi include both pure electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids in that figure.

Wards Auto reported that Thacker believes internal-combustion engines will be in use for a long time. “We have to acknowledge there are different users with different needs,” said Audi’s EV strategist. Thacker oversees EV infrastructure, service, dealership relations, and partnerships.

Thacker said he believes there will be more than 500 EV models on sale globally by 2021. He predicted that EVs would represent a 60% market share in the US by 2040.

In November, the German automaker said it would accelerate its EV investments through 2024. There were reports in January that Audi was cutting back production of the e-tron at its Brussels-based plant. An Audi spokesperson told Electrek, “US supply at this point is unaffected. Dealers do have some inventory, and orders continue to be accepted and fulfilled.”

Find the lowest price on an Audi e-tron.

Electrek’s Take

Thacker’s comments reveal that there has indeed been pushback from dealers. And it’s not completely gone. As recently as November, Roger Penske, CEO of Penske Automotive Group, complained about the high cost of EVs — rather than, for example, pointing to the low cost of ownership.

Earlier this week, we posted about a European e-tron owner encountering combustion-car service recommendations. He said, “Companies still don’t really get BEVs.”

So, on one hand, it’s good to see reported progress with winning over dealers to EVs. That’s absolutely essential. But there’s more work to be done, not only in terms of investment into accelerated production, but with corporate-level messaging, as well as execution at the dealership and consumer level.

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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.