Audi is planning a major push into the Chinese electric car market in an effort to gain an advantage over Tesla. The German luxury automobile maker has announced its plans to produce five new electric vehicles for the Chinese market over the next five years, starting with the A6L e-tron sedan.
The L denotes a long wheelbase version of a car. Rear seat roominess is highly prized by Chinese customers, so manufacturers offer stretched variants of their regular models to lure Chinese customers. It will be manufactured in China in cooperation with local partner FAW automotive group.
The Q7 e-tron SUV is expected to go on sale in China next year and will be imported rather than manufactured in country. Audi says it will bring another electric car with more than 300 miles of range to the Chinese market in the near future. The Audi Quattro e-tron is scheduled to be released in Germany later this year.
More than 300,000 electric cars were sold in China last year, making it the largest market for electric vehicles in the world. EV sales are helped in large part by generous subsidies from the government, which can amount to as much as $16,000 per car. While those subsidies are set to scale back over the next few years, they still are larger than what other countries offer.
Selling electric cars in volume in China helps to spread research and development costs across more vehicles, lowering per unit costs. The same dynamic also helps lower battery manufacturing costs.
At present, Chinese law requires foreign car companies to share a significant amount of their technology with local manufacturing partners. But a new law is expected to be announced in the next few weeks that will significantly reduce that requirement. Companies will still be required to work with local partners but won’t need to share quite as much of their proprietary technology with them as before.
The change will make China an even more attractive market for Tesla, which makes some of the most technologically advanced cars in the world. Tesla plans to be a major force in the Chinese electric car market and is considering where and when to build its own factory in China. Audi and other manufacturers will need to move quickly if they want to keep Tesla from gaining an insurmountable lead in EV sales in China.