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Audi says naming will not confuse customers

Brand will change its model range designation to reflect the new-energy era, says Audi boss

19 Oct 2023

AUDI Australia has just launched the rebranded e-tron SUV in Australia as part of the Q8 model line, where it sits alongside the existing Q8 line-up that consists of an array of different internal combustion engine (ICE) derivatives.


What is most peculiar about the move is that the brand has also announced that it plans to make the ‘even’ numbered suffixes in its range – such as the Q4, Q6 and Q8 – the electric or electrified models, where the ICE models will roll with ‘odd’ numbers as part of their name.


It might not seem that confusing on the surface, but the timing of rebranding this model is peculiar. The e-tron electric SUV and Sportback coupe-style model have been around for almost half a decade, while it launched in Australia in 2020. 


Meanwhile, the existing Q8 model, which launched in 2018, has seen a dramatic range expansion in the past 18 months, and is now available turbo-petrol (55 TFSI), V8 petrol (S Q8 and RSQ8), turbo-diesel (50 TDI) and an upcoming plug-in hybrid (60 TFSI e).


So why make the change now?


We asked Audi Australia’s head of product, Matthew Dale, who indicated that the brand was moving now to make things easier for customers in the years to come.


“It’s kind of like with ‘quattro’. We had the Ur Quattro, which stood for something which was all-wheel drive and now quattro is across almost every model, or there is a variant with quattro,” he explained.


“So, e-tron was similar to that in the establishment of that sub-brand, and then now we’re migrating to all the ‘evens’ are going to be electrified vehicles, and all the ‘odds’ will be ICEs, so it’s easier for customers to interpret what is the change and to get to the point of where they sit in a range.


“Like, Q4 is an example. Obviously between 3 and 5, so it sits right there. But it also stands for electrification – and same with Q8. The e-tron was always a large SUV that sat around Q7, Q8, but where does it go to from there?


“Basically, it is the pinnacle of our SUV range, in terms of electrification so that’s why it’s got the ‘8’ behind it, and then we’ve got Q6 in our medium segment and Q4 in our smaller segment.”


When asked if that means that the existing Q8 will then become a Q9, Mr Dale said that is not the case.


“Not necessarily; basically because we’ve named Q8 e-tron right now as this car, you’ve still got that ICE (Q8) that has a model lifecycle. So that model lifecycle will continue until the end of production. And then obviously you’ve got Q8 e-tron that will pick up from there,” he said.


The Q8 model line was first launched in 2018, and going by Audi’s larger high-end model standards, it will likely be on sale for at least another two or three years.


“The ‘7s’, you know, they’re going to be all ICEs, so petrol or diesel. There are plug-in hybrids overseas, and they don’t get the ‘evens’, it’s only the full BEVs that get the ‘evens’,” he added.


“But it’s almost like going back to our variant badging. We had to change the variant badging away from 2.0 TFSI or 3.0 TDI because that was getting to a point where we were using smaller-capacity turbocharged engines, with higher power outputs, those badges no longer made sense.


“And, at the time, that was a moment that was a big change for customers to adopt – like we even had customers saying ‘45 TFSI, is that a 4.5L?’ because they were so used to the Audi naming being an engine.


“But a lot of companies migrated that way. Smaller capacity, turbocharged or high-power output turbocharged engines and it’s very similar to what we’re doing with electrification as well. It will take time but it’s up to us as the manufacturer to educate our customers and the market of what it means.”


Audi Q8 e-tron product manager, Gabriella Saffo, said that the e-tron model had started the conversation with customers, but the rebranding will help customers understand what is to come.


“It was a branding job to help customers understand Audi’s electric technology, and now as the range is growing it needs to kind of fall in line with the rest of the naming convention,” she said.


“Then it gets a little bit easier for everyone to understand or to see what the line-up looks like. 


“Globally, you see it on Q6, so it just helps everyone kind of understand where it sits in the range but when it was on its own it was doing the job of (telling customers) ‘Audi is going EV’. It was establishing the e-tron brand, really, as the electric brand for us.”


Further, when asked if the name change will affect the other e-tron model in the brand’s line-up, the e-tron GT and the sportier RS e-tron GT, Ms Saffo suggested that naming convention will remain unchanged for now.


“The e-tron SUV was the first all-electric Audi, obviously, and with e-tron GT, that name is not changing. That positions itself as our grand tourer, at the top of the range,” she said.


Audi has launched the Q8 e-tron model in one specification initially, the ‘55’ grade, which lists at $153,900 plus on-road costs for the SUV version, and $165,900 +ORC for the more richly specified and more popular Sportback version.


The brand has confirmed it will offer a more affordable ‘50’ grade in 2024, as well as a performance-focused SQ8 e-tron version, too.

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