The great thing about talking to senior executives at auto companies is that they know considerably more than their PR minders do. And sometimes, if you get the right exec on the right day, they’re prepared to talk about things the spin doctors would advise against revealing.
We suspect that Peter Mertens, new head of development at Audi, is going to prove to be one of those executives whom journalists like to seek out. The refreshingly candid German (who was heading up R&D at Volvo last year) isn’t going to casually reveal Audi’s five-year plan. But he is happy to drop some fascinating clues about where the brand is heading, especially when it comes to electric mobility.
The one thing seemingly missing from the plans for a family of pure electric e-tron models is a range-topping halo model. That omission is made more obvious by the fact that, in the R8 e-tron (pictured above), Audi previously produced an electron-driven sports car, but only briefly. The good news is that it’s a gap Mertens seems to be both aware of and keen to fill.
“You can very well imagine that at some point we will have an electric supercar,” he told journalists at the 2017 Formula E race in Berlin. “The question is, ‘Would I like to make it happen sooner?’ and the answer is, ‘Yes, of course.’ It is part of our plan. We’re not going to talk about that today, but I can tell you that for a brand like Audi, a supercar is always interesting, and it’s a segment in which we have been playing, we have been a very serious player.”
The previous R8 e-tron stands as inspiration here, but also as a cautionary tale. The project was canceled by Wolfgang Durheimer during his brief period as head of R&D for Audi, before being resurrected by Ulrich Hackenberg, one of the senior executives to have left the company in the wake of the Dieselgate scandal.
The production e-tron was built in tiny numbers and sold for only 19 months while technical…