Hackenberg also said the central processing unit for autonomous operation would be very expensive at low volumes, but he expected mass production would lower the price enough for it to be fitted to the next-generation MQB platform.
This suggests that the Mk8 Volkswagen Golf and the wider Golf-related family, due at the end of the decade, could be capable of autonomous driving. Such a move would mark a revolution in mainstream motoring.
Audi chairman Rupert Stadler told Autocar that he believed there was still considerable room for premium brand expansion around the world. He said premium sales account for around “12-13-14%” of the European and Chinese markets, leaving the way open for further growth. He said he could also see room for sales expansion in South America.
Stadler also ruled out a sub-brand similar to BMW’s i models, emphasising that Audi’s alternative-fuel vehicles would form part of its mainstream model line-up.
He also ruled out allowing Audis to be used for car-sharing schemes, because those vehicles ‘”soon become dirty and battered and that is not a premium experience for a driver”.
On the issue of motor sport, Audi’s board members said they would “not comment on rumours” that the brand would eventually enter Formula 1, while Hackenberg said Audi was following Formula E "with great interest”.
“At the moment, the type of components used for the cars is quite restricted, but we think that will change," he said. "So when the [Formula E] technology becomes more liberated, we will definitely look [at the series] in more detail.”
New look for next Audi A8
The next-generation Audi A8 will be the first model to get the firm’s all-new look previewed on the Los Angeles motor show Prologue concept when it launches in 2017.
Audi technical chief Ulrich Hackenberg confirmed the news to Autocar at the 2014 LA motor show. He said the A8 would be the first car designed from scratch by new design chief Marc Lichte.
"I gave Marc his first job of designing the new A8, and the Prologue concept is a trailer for that," Hackenberg revealed. "This concept is the next step of Audi design. The new A8 will launch by the end of 2016.
"The next A6 and A7 will also have this look. In the A8, there will be a lot of features from the Prologue. The face and the interior in particular; I'm not a fan of concept cars that are too spectacular, so that's why you'll see so much of this design in the new cars."
Hackenberg said Audi was ready for a new design language. "I promised to take care of the design when I came to Audi," said Hackenberg. "We will be making the cars more different, yes. You'll see lots of differences in the new cars.
"Marc is tasked with doing something new, and you need courage and ability to do that. It's a very hard job to do, to regenerate design and take the next step and evolve. Lichte is ambitious and has the ability to do that."
Hackenberg said he and Lichte had arrived too late at Audi to influence the look of more imminent models such as the Q7 and A4, both of which are on sale next year. As such, it'll be the end of 2017 before the new Audi look hits the road.