German automaker Audi has temporarily halted production of its e-tron electric SUV due to a lack of batteries, highlighting the challenges facing traditional carmakers as they prepare to electrify their lineups.
According to news outlet Bloomberg, production of the model at the company’s plant in Brussels, Belgium, has been halted so that Audi can resolve supply problems facing the company. The publication reports that Audi sold more than 26,000 e-tron models in 2019, including more than 5,000 in the United States. The shutdown is expected to be brief, the company promising to resume operations as soon as possible.
The Volkswagen Group's luxury brand plans to expand its e-tron lineup to include a new Sportback model, and a high-performance variant (perhaps with both body styles) is also said to be in development. At the moment, it’s unclear how the battery shortage might affect Audi's plans to expand its range of electric vehicles.
In addition to adding new variants, the manufacturer is working on improving the base-model e-tron through progressive powertrain upgrades, Tesla-style. These have already added some 25 kilometers of range to the model's existing battery pack. It remains to be seen whether these changes will be incorporated into future designs for the North American market.
Although the e-tron is currently Audi's flagship electric vehicle, the model is only expected to survive one generation. As BMW plans to do, Audi will begin integrating its electric models into its existing product line. This is hardly surprising; going with electric versions of known models is probably seen as a more reassuring move for customers.
Audi is not the only major industry player to experience problems ramping up production of electric vehicles. Mercedes-Benz delayed the introduction of its EQC SUV, set to be a direct rival of Audi's e-tron, by a year. While Daimler denies that problems feeding its assembly line enough battery packs is behind that move, the issues facing the two German companies highlight the difficulties that carmakers have encountered when trying to increase production of new electric cars.