At the end of 2012 I flew with a few other journalists to Audi’s huge Ingolstadt facility to speak to new development boss Wolfgang Dürheimer.
He had been in the job for just 93 days and was very open and honest about what he saw as the future for Audi. He talked about a diesel-hybrid hypercar that sat above the R8 (and leveraged Audi’s Le Mans technology), a superlight TT and a 280mpg four-seat city car based on the A1 platform.
But in June 2013 Dürheimer was removed from his post. It was hard to get a definitive explanation as to why he had fallen from grace, but it seems his lack of enthusiasm for electric power was one of the reasons.
He reportedly cancelled the R8 e-tron and an electric version of the A1 supermini when BMW was just months away from launching the i3 electric car. With Audi flying under the ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ banner, being upstaged by BMW’s i family was too much for the higher Volkswagen Group management.
VW brand development boss Ulrich Hackenberg (famous for masterminding the huge MQB platform project) replaced Dürheimer last summer, and he has not been backward in promoting electrification for the Audi brand. Indeed, the word on the strasse is that getting two high-end electric Audis into production will be Hackenburg’s engineering swansong before retirement.