Lack of batteries forces Audi e-tron production to a standstill
The Brussels’ Audi factory, the only one currently producing the e-tron, has come to a standstill as the flow of battery cells from Korean LG Chem’s Polish factory in Wroclaw ran dry. It has nothing to do with the coronavirus, but rather with problems keeping up with growing demand worldwide.
The South Korean LG Chem factory is one of the few battery cell production plants in Europe, active since 2018. The battery cells are used by Audi in its Brussels factory to be assembled for the current Audi e-tron and the Sportback to be launched. It’s one of the departments of the factory preparing parts for the major production.
‘Lack of parts’
At Audi, spokesperson Peter D’Hoore confirmed newspaper L’Echo the production has come to a standstill due to a ‘lack of parts’. Which parts D’Hoore wouldn’t say explicitly to ‘preserve good commercial relationships’.
But it has nothing to do with the coronavirus that crippled production in China and Korea, among others, D’Hoore ensured. Factory workers are put on ‘economic unemployment’ temporarily until Wednesday. In January, the supply of LG Chem battery cells to the Audi car plant in Vorst (near Brussels) already stalled production, but only for a few hours.
Mercedes and Jaguar waiting too
At the LG Chem side, there is a ‘deafening silence’, no comments are given. Being still one of the few European production plants, it is clear that the EU is vulnerable as feared, being dependant on mostly Asian partners for batteries so far.
Meanwhile, also Mercedes-Benz is facing provisioning problems with lithium-ion battery cells for its EQC production in Bremen (Germany) and even Jaguar for its iPace in Graz (Austria) at Magna Steyr.
The latter had to stop production of the iPace too for the same reasons, lack of LG Chem battery cells from Poland. And Ford is counting on LG Chem for its electric Mustang Mach E. The problems at LG Chem seem to be caused by difficulties in keeping up with worldwide demand, rather than with a shortage of cobalt or rare metals.
Preparing for Sportback
At Audi Brussels, all is being prepared to start production of Audi’s second full-electric model, the e-tron Sportback. That car will be available in two different power versions in Belgium from spring at prices beginning at €72 800 for the basic version.
Audi Brussels, employing around 3 000 people, initially planned to build 77 000 electric cars this year, but decided in January in attendance of the Sportback to lower e-tron production with 4 100 to 5 700 units.
Global figures of the Audi e-tron sales are expected in March, but according to car federation, Febiac, 974 e-trons were registred in Belgium in 2019. With 99 registered in January, e-tron sales seem to hold the course this year.