Will Audi Q10 e-tron be the saviour of Audi Brussels?

Following the decision to withdraw production of the Q8 e-tron from Europe and relocate it to Mexico, the search is ongoing for alternatives for the Audi plant in Brussels. This could be a new high-luxury SUV EV, the assembly of batteries and other electric parts, or both.

As the German publication Handelsblatt writes, citing negotiating circles, a large electric SUV above the Q8 e-tron could be built in Brussels in the future. Previously, the plan was to produce such a model at the Audi plant in Neckarsulm.

However, the recent increase in demand for combustion engines in Germany could mean that Neckarsulm could be sufficiently utilized with the updated A5 and A7 combustion models. Hence, it is an opportunity to occupy the people in Brussels.

A car, components, or both

The production of this large luxury SUV, which will probably be called Q10 e-tron according to the current Audi naming convention – odd numbers are intended for combustion models, even for EVs – is not the only variant currently being discussed. The Brussels plant is also being considered for the production of batteries and components for the German plants, according to the report.

In response to Handelsblatt’s question, Audi itself stated that the subsequent allocation at the Brussels plant should be clarified by November. This is when the VW Group’s traditional planning round takes place, in which the production of the individual models is allocated to the plants for the next five years.

According to Belgian informants, June is likely to be a decisive phase: This week, a Belgian government task force will send Audi a package of measures on how and with what financial support the plant could be maintained. Further talks between the government in Brussels and the car manufacturer are then apparently planned for mid-June.

Searching for profitability

One thing is clear: production in Brussels is currently not profitable for Audi. With a capacity of 120,000 units, the Belgian plant is the smallest production site in Europe. Audi still produces its vehicles in Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm in Germany and Györ in Hungary.

But even this relatively small capacity was not nearly utilised in Brussels recently: Audi only produced 37,400 vehicles in Belgium in 2023, according to figures from Marklines. Last year also saw the model change from the e-tron quattro to the Q8 e-tron, which was only a facelift of the original model. However, the SUV model never exceeded the (record) sales of 47,900 vehicles in 2022.

Audi wants to avoid closing a plant in Europe; however, the situation is not simple. After all, it is unclear whether an even more exclusively positioned SUV with a length of more than five meters would generate the necessary numbers to utilize the Brussels capacity of 120,000 units better.

Such a model would most likely be based on the coming SSP platform and, therefore, only be purely electric. The Q8 e-tron is still based on an electrified combustion engine platform and therefore has some disadvantages.

However, it is unclear whether the SSP platform will be sufficient to utilize the capacity of the Brussels plant, even with global exports. Capacity utilization is also below plan at other Audi plants: in Hungary, for example, only 114,000 Audi were built in 2023, while 200,000 units would be possible.

That’s why the Audi bosses are also considering turning the Brussels plant into an electric components manufacturing plant,  eventually in combination with a (in absolute numbers) restricted production of the high-end electric SUV. The coming months will be crucial in this matter.

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