Audi launches electric SUV in Tesla’s backyard, with assist from Amazon

German luxury car brand Audi staged the global launch of a new electric sport utility vehicle on the home turf of rival Tesla Inc. (File/Reuters)
Updated 18 September 2018

Audi launches electric SUV in Tesla’s backyard, with assist from Amazon

SAN FRANCISCO: German luxury car brand Audi on Monday staged the global launch of a new electric sport utility vehicle on the home turf of rival Tesla Inc, and highlighted a deal with Amazon.com Inc. to make recharging its forthcoming e-tron models easier.
The Audi e-tron midsize SUV will be offered in the United States next year at a starting price of $75,795 before a $7,500 tax credit. It is one of a volley of electric vehicles coming from Volkswagen AG brands, as well as other European premium brands including Daimler-owned Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Volvo Cars and Jaguar Land Rover.
All aim to expand the market for premium electric vehicles and also to grab share of that market from Palo Alto, California-based Tesla, which has had the niche largely to itself.
“I want Audi to be the number-one electric vehicle seller in America over the long term,” Audi of America President Scott Keogh told Reuters in an interview on Monday.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who is also head of rocket company SpaceX, planned to mark the e-tron launch occasion by staging a SpaceX event in Los Angeles at roughly the same time on Monday evening as Audi’s unveiling.
Audi and parent Volkswagen are using the US launch of the e-tron SUV in mid-2019 to take aim at one obstacle to expanding electric vehicle sales — the lack of convenient ways to recharge their batteries.
Audi will partner with online retailer Amazon to sell and install home electric vehicle charging systems to buyers of the e-tron, the companies said on Monday. Amazon will deliver the hardware and hire electricians to install them through its Amazon Home Services operation.
Amazon’s partnership with Audi to provide home charging systems is the first time the online retailer has struck such a deal with an automaker, and signals a new front in Amazon’s drive to expand its reach into consumers’ homes beyond the presence of its Alexa smart speakers in living rooms and kitchens.
“We see charging installation as a very important business,” Pat Bigatel, director of Amazon Home Services, told Reuters at Audi’s launch event in San Francisco’s Bill Graham Civic Center.
Audi executives said home charging stations would cost about $1,000, depending on the home’s electrical system.
Tesla offers wall connectors for home charging at a $500 list price, and will arrange for installation, according to the company.
At the same time, Electrify America, a company funded by Volkswagen as part of its settlement of US diesel emission cheating litigation, plans to launch next year the next round of installations of public charging stations, Electrify America executives told Reuters.
Tesla has developed its own network of Supercharger charging stations with more than 11,000 chargers in North America. Electrify America plans to have 2,000 chargers installed by mid-June next year. Those will be open to any vehicle, and customers can swipe a credit card to recharge.
“We want to work with all” automotive brands, said Giovanni Palazzo, Electrify America’s chief executive.

Lifting the Curtain

Audi has been heralding the launch of the e-tron SUV for some time, but until Monday it had not shared many details of the vehicle.
The e-tron is electric, and has two electric motors — one in the front and one in the rear — driving all four wheels. The Hungarian factory building motors for the e-tron will start with a production pace equivalent to 200 vehicles a day, Audi officials said.
In Europe, the vehicle will use cameras instead of conventional mirrors to give drivers a view to the rear. That feature is still not approved by US regulators.
However, in many other respects the e-tron is a conventional, mainstream luxury SUV. It offers seating for five, and its length and wheelbase position it in the center of the market for midsize, five-passenger luxury SUVs such as the BMW X5. The e-tron is 5 inches (13 cm) shorter than the Tesla Model X, and it has conventional doors. The Model X uses vertically opening “falcon wing” doors.
The e-tron will have an advanced cruise-control system that can keep the car within a lane and maintain a set distance behind another vehicle, but the system will be designed so that drivers must keep hands on the wheel.
Audi officials said they do not have official range estimates for the e-tron SUV under US testing procedures. The e-tron’s 95 kWh battery has less capacity than the 100 kWh battery used in the Tesla Model X 100D model, but more than the base Model X 75D.
The Model X 100D is rated at 295 miles (475 km) of range by the US government.


Forza Ferrari - the view from the cockpit of the famous brand

Updated 24 June 2020

Forza Ferrari - the view from the cockpit of the famous brand

  • The master carmaker’s tribute to Italian style and power speeds you into Formula 1 territory

DUBAI: I think the gravity — no pun intended — of my situation hit home when Sep, the assistant at the Al-Tayer Ferrari showroom in Dubai, pointed to the feature on the dashboard display of the F8 Tributo that measures the g-force hitting your body as the supercar accelerates.

“People are impressed by that,” he said, before giving me a very personal demonstration of the power of the car when he put it into “launch” mode and took off down a thankfully empty side road.

I was immediately flattened against my seat by the sheer power of the vehicle — 0-100 kph in a few exhilarating seconds, with the 3.9 litre twin-turbo engine screaming like a fighter jet.


Ferrari, the famous Italian sports car maker, is about power, of course. In the driver’s seat, you are immediately conscious of the immense potency your right foot commands.

Just a little touch on the gas is enough to take you past virtually everything else on the road. Floor it, and you can imagine yourself in Formula One territory.

Just one little Ferrari moment: I’m at a red signal on King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Street, and a rival fast car model pulls up beside me. He looks at the Tributo, looks at me, and grips his wheel tightly with eyes fixed on the light. He wants a racing start.

When the signal changes, I let him get a few meters ahead, before gunning the gas and easily overtaking him in the next twenty meters. “Forza Ferrari!” I exclaim as I watch him recede in the rear view.

-------

READ MORE: Frank Kane's Big Interview - Ferrari accelerates in the Middle East — with a passion

-------

The Tributo is named in homage to the long tradition of Ferrari mid-engine sports cars known as “berlinetta” — two-seater coupes that go back to at least the 1970s. Unveiled last year in Geneva, it is the latest refinement in a class of supercars that Ferrari has made its own. Forget all the pretenders, there is only one Prancing Horse.

The one that I drove was not in classic Ferrari red, but rather in a more sophisticated silver. The body lines are aerodynamically elegant, while the bulging wheel arches and air-intakes give the car a muscular look to go with that 710 bhp engine. Long, sleek and powerful, it’s easily the sexiest car I’ve ever driven.

The designers at Maranello in Italy, the home of Ferrari where they are all built, call the interior the “cockpit”, and I felt like I was in a “Top Gun” movie. The cobalt blue leather harmonized with silvery graphite fixtures, and both contrasted nicely with the yellow Ferrari motif in the middle of the steering wheel.

This is oval shaped, reminiscent of a Formula One wheel, but probably also to allow you in and out of the car with some dignity.

This is definitely not a family car. There is cockpit room for you and your passenger, and behind you, close enough to make you jump when you gun the accelerator, is the engine. A Perspex cover shows off the bright red engine casing to any admirers — and there are plenty on the streets and hotel forecourts of Dubai.

On Sheikh Zayed Road, away from the speed bumps that you have to negotiate with care in such a low vehicle, the car seems to enjoy its natural high-speed environment. It can be difficult to stay within speed limits. The Tributo gets to 120 kph effortlessly, but you can tell it wants to go faster. It feels almost cruel to hold it back.

When Sep showed me the controls outside the showroom, he flicked into the computerized driving history. Although the car had only driven just over 100 km in its lifetime since arriving from Italy, it had managed to hit 295kph on one occasion.

Sep put that down to a Ferrari engineer putting it through its paces at a special track in Dubai. Imagine the g-forces from that little workout

Ferrari Italia is recovering well from the pandemic lockdown. At the height of the crisis the production lines at Maranello were turned over to ventilator manufacture, but now it is shipping cars again. The next big launch in the Middle East will be the Roma, which is designed to epitomize the “dolce vita” of the Eternal City.

Ferrari and eternity are fitting companions. There will always be the Prancing Horse.