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Audi remains committed to diesel

Midnight oil: Audi will continue development of diesel powertrains and has cited its SQ7 as an oil-burning perception booster.

Diesel development still a priority for Audi even though public opinion has shifted

13 Mar 2017


AUDI has reaffirmed its dedication to diesel powertrains despite a shift in market perception and its involvement in Volkswagen’s ongoing diesel emissions cheating scandal.

Audi chairman of the board of management Rupert Stadler told Australian journalists at the Geneva motor show last week that diesel power was still central to the German prestige brand.

“I have a very clear position on that,” he said. “There is a lot of critics out in the market when it comes to diesel. Being honest with you, EU6 version of really clean diesel, I think we should not punish anymore with diesel.”

Mr Stadler said the oil-burning powertrain still has a future at the Ingolstadt-based company, and research and development on improving efficiencies and cleanliness of diesel engines would continue.

“We all know that probably in the next 10 years, we will have maybe 30 per cent of pure battery-electric vehicles, but there will still remain a 70 per cent of gasoline and diesel cars,” he said.

“This is fact and this is reality. And we cannot ignore the reality.

“The key question is, what can we do still in terms of further diesel development and gasoline development to get better fuel emissions, better fuel consumption, and there is still work to do for the engineers.

“We should now not sacrifice the diesel only because there is a big discussion about that one. People still love the diesel because of good range, of good torque, and of good fuel economy. We should at least try to accept that.”

However, Mr Stadler did admit that overall public opinion of diesel had shifted in recent years, and said the future of the powertrain likely lies in mid-size vehicles and upwards where they can make better use of its advantages – namely more low-end torque and better fuel economy.

“I would say that, looking a little bit towards the future, the diesel engineering and development will bring higher cost burden also to the diesel, but also to the gasoline engines with particular philtres and zones,” he said.

“Of course, in the smaller segments, like the AO segment (supermini), there is an Audi A1 or Volkswagen Polo or Seat Ibiza – the life for diesel will be very difficult. But in the … (larger) segment, this is the customer who’s taking 20,000 miles a year, 30,000 miles a year, he still talks positively for the diesel.”

Mr Stadler said different markets around the world hold different opinions on diesel, the strongest of which is in Europe.

“Being realistic, in China there is no diesel and there probably will be no diesel,” he said.

“In US, there was only a small portion of diesel and with the actual fuel prices, there will be only a very small portion of diesel. And in Europe, this is the home turf of diesel and I’m absolutely convinced that the diesel remains here.

“Diesel is stable.”

Models such as Audi’s new SQ7, which employs a 320kW/900Nm 4.0-litre turbo-diesel V8 and advanced electrically driven compressor to help provide boost at lower engine speeds, will be tasked with raising the profile of diesel, according to Mr Stadler.

“Of course, it’s an insulated diesel with hi-tech additional electric power booster,” he said. “But I think it is our job to make the technology not only sexy, but also compliant.”

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