Bram Schot was rocketed into his role of Audi CEO last year thanks to the ongoing Dieselgate scandal.
His predecessor Rupert Stadler was arrested in relation to a German investigation into Audi’s involvement. Schot was temporary CEO from June and confirmed as the new boss in December. He was previously Audi sales and marketing boss.
On taking the job
“I worked on [a plan for the business] since June because I was not very interested in being official boss or not. You are or you’re not. It doesn’t matter what’s on your business card. So I started [planning] straight away, because otherwise you should not be the temporary boss.”
On the changes he’s making at Audi
“I found that we had a very, very overloaded cycle plan. The offering was extremely complex. We wanted to have a solution for every requirement of a customer. We have customer centricity but in the end, I think we overdid a little bit. “We have WLTP, EU7, all the requirements in China and so on, so it’s very difficult to manage.
I saw cars with 2% take-rate – so I said, ‘what’s the reason for developing that one?’ It’s just for a little piece of customer segment. I will not do that anymore. From 2018 to 2019, I took 27% of the complexity out of the product programme in variants and trims.
“I will go further than that. I will not tell you when but I’m really thinking about which models will not have follow-up models. But also the engine choice. Perhaps I could decide to electrify one and not give them diesel or petrol engines anymore.
“I have to invest. Audi has to be really prominent in the future and electrification has to be financed, autonomous driving has to be financed so I cannot afford to be in every country in every customer channel, in every derivative, offering manual gearshifts in cars costing €70,000. So I took out a lot of those choices and everybody is coping with that.”
On the future of the TT
“Whether the TT has a future is a very good question. I think there’s a future for an icon. If it is to be the TT I have yet to decide, but I would love to have a car like that. This [car] is typical Audi. I will do my utmost to keep the car but in the end, we have to try and find a way to finance future developments. I have some things cooking which could probably replace a TT, and could be the TT of the future.”
On autonomous driving
“Autonomous driving will mean standardised technology adopted across the industry and probably not too much opportunity to differentiate the brand. I have to consider how much I want to invest or how much to co-operate with competitors.
“At the same time, I think the industry probably underestimated the complexity of bringing autonomous driving to market and everything that has to be done to make sure that everything driving on the road is safe. It will come, but not as fast as we think.”
“It’s a real challenge to get smaller cars in a lower pricing segment electrified. People are getting extremely phobic on range – wanting 300 or 400 miles – yet the average person drives 24 miles a day.
“What is wrong with a smaller car with different battery options where it really fits the usage of the person? If you only drive 30 miles a day, then an electric car can be lighter and less expensive. If you only drive a couple of thousand miles a year, then you don’t want 400kg of battery weight in the car.”
On the rising costs of buying cars
“If you look at electrification, it means more expensive cars, but also we need to invest in petrol and diesel engines in the next few years, which will also increase prices so mobility in general will be more expensive. The question is: are people going to settle for different kinds of cars, are people going to settle for different kinds of brands, are people going to settle for the same car but a different engine? What does it mean for sharing? I don’t know.
“There are a lot of things to analyse. I see that we have to invest a lot of money to try and find more efficiency in the company to finance that. I’m absolutely sure we’ll find the money but part of it will have to be invoiced to the market and that means higher costs for mobility than people are used to getting for a lower price now.
On shared mobility
“In the end, it’s always better to sell cars in shared mobility than no cars. There are some predictions that 70% of the population will be in big cities. It’s impossible that cities can have enough cars to transport all the people. Ultimately, there will be an end to growth in mobility. I’m absolutely sure. We are not talking three or four years’ time, but if we want to make the planet green and sustainable, then it’s not only about the transport we use or the powertrain we opt for but about travelling less, changing our behaviour. Do we need transportation? Can we work from home?”
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