When Stephan Winkelmann, ex-Lamborghini CEO and wearer of impeccable suits, assumed the head of Quattro GmbH early last year, I was incredibly excited. He would be, it seemed, the shot of drama and life-blood Audi so desperately needed in its lineup. But in a new interview, he appears to be most interested in... SUVs? Goddammit, not you, too, Audi.
Speaking to Top Gear in an interview, Winkelmann revealed that he’s been busy prioritizing electrification and motorsports, like Formula E. Oh, and also that an RS SUV is of way more importance than any hardcore R8.
From the story:
Top Gear: What’s your biggest priority – an RS SUV, or a hardcore R8 ‘Performante’?
Stephan Winkelmann: The first one, and I’ll tell you why. Once you create a brand, you have to create a line-up. We have the R8, and we will do derivatives in different directions. But we have to create a line-up which is more worldwide-sellable than today’s.
If I put the money down, I have to make sure it’s equally distributed. But we will not stop doing ‘the icons’. They are part of what we’re all about. It’s not just about numbers, it’s about emotions. But we’re a small manufacturer, and we have to prepare the boat to sail in safe waters. That means different steps into electrification.
Of course, an RS Q7 would sell like an R8 would never sell, but that’s exactly what selling out is, isn’t it? Quattro may mean Audi’s famed four-wheel-drive system, but its enthusiast ties are reflected much more strongly in an R8 than a sport SUV.
Mercedes has been AMGing everything there is to AMG. BMW’s M has been showing up on more and more suburban mall crawlers. And now I guess Audi will do that same.
Winkelmann is right in that they already have a brand-topper in the form of an R8. Those types of cars aren’t meant to sell, they’re meant to be acknowledged. When people think Audi, chances are they’ll also think R8 somewhere along the way as well. Like the Lexus LC 500. That car isn’t for bringing in the big bucks. But boy does it make people happy. The SUVs are where the money is.
That’s the truth, albeit a sad one.
Whatever. At least we can all look forward to “Audi RS Q7 Slays Corvette In Drag Race” or whatever videos that will pop up on M5 Board as a result.
Correction: This post has been updated to remove an erroneous section about the age of the Audi R8. An all-new one debuted in 2015.