As part of its joint venture with Volkswagen and First Automotive Works (FAW), Audi began running a second production facility in China . The Foshan production site is located in Guangdong Province in southern China. Credit: Audi.

German premium carmaker Audi has set its sights on a “golden decade” in the world’s largest automotive market.

According to China Daily, its goal is to regain the top position it enjoyed for around three decades.

In a recent interview, Audi China President Werner Eichhorn, who is less than a year into the job, said the ambition is based on three pillars.

But is Audi missing the point?

Those three pillars should be built on quality, customer satisfaction and a bullet-proof warranty to back it up.

Instead, this so-called corporate pillar strategy is based on none of those things.

In some parts of the world, they would call that a recipe for disaster. But in China, who knows.

Pillar No. 1: The company’s CEO, Markus Duesmann, attaches great importance to China, which is Audi’s largest market and main source of revenue and profit.

And so it should! This is a no-brainer.

Duesmann is the first top executive of any premium carmaker to take direct charge of its China business.

In a broader context, Herbert Diess, CEO of Audi’s parent company Volkswagen, assumes direct responsibility for its operations in the country as well, China Daily reported.

Pillar No. 2: Eichhorn says its golden decade blueprint lies in its two Chinese partners.

Audi has been producing vehicles in China with FAW since the late 1980s, and was a long-time champion in the country’s ever-growing premium vehicle market.

Sure, it’s always good to rub the back of the Chinese partner. Maybe even buy them a nice bottle of Moutai once in a while, too.

Seriously, this is a pillar?

Pillar No. 3: Models.

The number of Audi models made with FAW will reach 12 by the end of 2021, Eichhorn said. Localized models now account for a majority of its sales in the country, China Daily reported.

Last year, it sold 727,358 vehicles, the brand’s best result in more than 30 years of business in China.

Audi expects its annual sales in the country to grow to 1 million by 2023, as its partnership with another Chinese carmaker, SAIC Motor, is to roll out the first vehicle later this year, China Daily reported. The model will hit the market in 2022.

Eichhorn said China’s premium vehicle market will grow from around 3 million in 2020 to around 4 million in 2030.

By then, he estimates that 40-45% of those vehicles will be new energy. He said Audi will seize the opportunity to create a new golden decade and return to the No 1 position in China’s premium vehicle market.

“It is a huge transformation and we would like to be part of it,” Eichhorn said.

All those numbers are really nice, but what about just building a good car for the Chinese market, and backing it up with a good warranty?

Since 1971, Audi’s slogan around the world has been “Vorsprung Durch Technik,” which roughly translates to “Being Ahead Through Technology.”

It seems clear, that Audi wants its message to consumers to be that their engineering is superior. Considering it’s one of the more expensive and prestigious vehicle brands on Earth, that seems like a good message to send.

But despite making some great cars over the years and all the good intentions, Audi has a history filled with problems ranging from blown cylinders and large oil leaks to large-scale electronic failures, reports.

It’s well documented that if you’re in the market for a used performance vehicle, you should vehemently avoid anything Audi made from 2008-2012, but this is 2020 and technology has greatly advanced.

Do Audi’s state-of-the-art Tesla fighters measure up?

A quick online search reveals the answer is an emphatic NO!

According to the e-tron forum, these vehicles suffer from large battery charging issues.

The batteries often don’t charge to capacity, nor do they pull maximum amperage from L1 or L2 chargers.

Dealer complaints have proven fruitless, as most have simply replied the chargers are working as designed.

In fact, across the board, and even in my own province (Alberta), Audi dealers are an unforgiving bunch.

Other major reported problems have mostly been electronic in nature, with flickering lights and complete blackouts often occurring, and malfunctioning tailgate sensors that can shut the trunk on your head if you aren’t careful.

As of yet, Audi is apparently waiting for a software fix to address these problems, and so dealers have been able to do nothing except completely replace all mechanisms and hope for the best.

The UK Reliability Index measures the frequency and cost of all repairs including parts and labor, then calculates an overall score for each brand. 

Audi rated 34 out of 40 brands in 2019 with a score of 195 (Honda rates highest with a score of 41, with lower being better). The average for all cars was 100, so Audi clearly still has some serious build issues.

Par example:

  • According to consumer reviews, the most common problem with the 2017 Q7 was that the engine bucks and shudders during cold starts. Diagnostic scanners show random cylinders misfiring until the engine warms.
  • The 2019 A8 had a software issue on the engine control module that caused the $85K+ car to misfire and lose power. Owners were told a fix was nine months away.
  • The 2020 Q3 suffers from serious engine malfunctions such as stalling while driving and sputtering on start-up.

Do you see a pattern?

Combine these issues with the myriad of customer service issues and outright warranty coverage refusals, and perhaps Audi needs to revisit its promise to “provide the best customer experience.”

Meanwhile, Audi is rapidly introducing new models into the country, with six NEV models to be launched this year, including the domestically produced e-tron SUV.

Audi launched an imported e-tron in China in late 2018. Eichhorn said its localization will be a milestone of its electrification campaign in China, China Daily reports.

He said the e-tron Sportback will follow soon and the e-tron GT, which had its global debut in earlier February, will arrive at the end of the year.

The e-tron GT is built on the J1 platform, which is co-developed by Audi and Porsche.