For weeks already, there have been rumors that VW’s daughter Audi is considering buying an electric car platform from a competitor in China. This comes as the VW Group’s SSP platform accumulates delays, and Audi can’t (and does not want to) wait longer. The company Audi is talking to is the Chinese SAIC Motor Corp.
SAIC commented last week on the rumor that Audi is negotiating with SAIC to source an electric car platform from IM Motors. SAIC told the Chinese medium Jiemian that it had agreed with Audi to jointly accelerate electric car development.
A brief report from the Chinese portal Jiemian states: “SAIC and Audi agreed that the two parties will accelerate the development of electric vehicles through cooperation. Both sides agreed that the Chinese automotive market is undergoing unprecedented changes, so they will further deepen strategic cooperation.”
Further details were revealed shortly after SAIC confirmed the agreement with Audi. For example, the joint production of e-cars will start much earlier than expected. Two electric sedans based on the 800-volt platform of IM Motors will be produced in Shanghai as early as next year.
These will be electric cars of the A3 and A4 series. Furthermore, SAIC and Audi want to “develop a new joint technical platform for future electric models, which will be launched on the market from 2027/28”.
Too many delays
The decision to buy an external electric platform was made against the background that Audi has to continue to deliver EVs, even though the launch of VW’s new electric flagship Trinity (and thus the new group platform SSP) is delayed.
The VW Trinity is not expected to launch until 2029 (some reports even talk of 2030), so there could be no Audi model on this platform before then. According to the original schedule, the Trinity was to debut in 2026.
Audi currently offers both Q4 e-tron and Q5 e-tron models in China, based on VW’s smaller MEB platform. The Q5 e-tron has nothing in common with the combustion model (built in Mexico) but is the Audi offshoot of the VW ID.6 X, an electric SUV for the Chinese market.
Both models come off the production line in Anting. Audi and its other Chinese cooperation partner FAW are building a pure electric car plant in China, where from the end of 2024, up to 150 000 units per year will be made. These will apparently be models based on the larger PPE platform, on which the upcoming A6 e-tron and Q6 e-tron models are based, and the upcoming Porsche Macan successor in electric form.
The PPE already brings some further developments compared to the current MEB, such as the switch to a system voltage of 800 volts.
Audi would take over the platform of IM Motors, a SAIC daughter and joint venture with Ali Baba, developing and producing EVs for the higher segments. Last year, their first sedan, the L7, was put on the market.
Volkswagen and SAIC have been working together for 30 years already in a joint venture (SAIC Volkswagen). It has several factories in China that produce cars of the VW Group.
The very recent decision to oust Audi CEO Markus Duesmann and replace him with Gernot Döllner as of the 1st of September undoubtedly has something to do with these delays. His successor now has to find a way to have a bunch of new Audi EVs on the road as soon as possible, no matter where the platform comes from.
Mid-range EVs first
For the time being, the focus of the new cooperation seems to be on mid-range electric vehicles, according to the German publication Handelsblatt. FAW, the second Audi partner in China, is to continue the existing model portfolio with combustion engines and additionally manufacture the Audi electric models of the luxury class.
Audi continues to leave the cooperation with SAIC uncommented, although according to group circles, these are said to be “well advanced”.
If everything happens as planned, it will be a departure from the previous scheme. Audi will then be manufacturing the mid-range electric cars together with SAIC and the internal combustion and luxury electric cars with FAW.
In the previous scheme, both joint ventures often offered the same models, as VW still does in China with the ID.4 X and ID.4 Crozz via the two joint venture partners. At Audi, this double production is to be eliminated in the future, according to the report.
The software will continue to come from Audi itself. “Unlike the MEB technology of the parent company, the Chinese platform can be equipped with the software that Audi has planned for the larger models in its portfolio,” concludes Handelsblatt.