Audi CEO Asks If They Build More Green Cars, Will Customers Buy Them?

From the Paris motor show this week, Audi CEO Rupert Stadler confided he is unsure global emissions regulations will not stifle its ability to sell its electrified products.

“We have to comply,” he said to Automotive News in an interview during press days before the show was open to the public. “And we have to see if the customer is coming with us.”

A similar argument was heard in preliminary discussions over U.S. Corporate Average Fuel Economy regs mandating “54.5 mpg” – low 40s average on actual window stickers – but Stadler was not talking about those.

He said he’s already accepted U.S. rules and EU rules calling for 95 grams CO2 emissions per kilometer, but voices with power in Europe are calling for perhaps as low as 65 grams per kilometer by 2025.

Stadler said it could weaken automakers – such as Audi – if government wonks make the global manufacturers all jump through increasingly narrow hoops.

Plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles are making progress, he said, but “it is far too early to know if the market is going to respond.”

But while the blog post was framed about all automakers, and as Audi warns of pending stalled progress, its U.S. electrified sales are one indicator that it is already well behind hybrid makers like Toyota and Ford, or electric car makers like Tesla.

Audi’s best selling hybrid last month was the Q5 Hybrid with 19 sold, and it has no all-electric cars, though it is talking about a Tesla-competitive R8 e-tron (pictured) next year.

Meanwhile, said Stadler, the general plan is to have eggs in many technological baskets that can all pull up the automaker’s score.

“We need a lot of technologies,” Stadler said. “You need to have a strong company, financial power. You need to have the best engineers on board, and then you can say, ‘This technology, this market.'”

Undoubtedly, Audi knows its business, and makes points worth considering. Governments are indeed pushing the envelope to curb CO2 but the debate is actually ongoing.

Whether government regs make them a bad guy or good guy in this economy is what this all can boil down to, and there are plenty of folks on both sides of that question.

In any case, within regulated markets there are automakers rising to the challenge – innovating, spending lots of money yes, but the gamble is those investments will pay off.

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