Audi Q8 E-tron could be axed early as firm mulls factory closure

Audi could end production of the Q8 E-tron electric SUV early as it contemplates the closure of its factory in Brussels, Belgium.

The Audi Q8 E-tron, originally known as just ‘E-tron’, entered production in 2018 as Audi’s first series-production electric car and was heavily updated in 2022 with a new name, tweaked styling and a much larger battery.

It was expected to remain in production until around the middle of the decade as the flagship for an electric SUV line-up that now also includes the smaller Q4 E-tron and mid-sized Q6 E-tron.

But now, Audi says a “global decline in customer orders in the electric luxury-class segment” threatens the large SUV’s viability and the company has laid out plans to restructure the Brussels facility where it is built.

Belgian law dictates that Audi enters into a consultation process with the workers’ council and other “responsible social partners” to discuss potential alternatives to ending production, but the company notes that a “cessation of operations” is possible.

Audi notes the drop in demand for the Q8 E-tron is “segment specific” and has not indicated that any of its other EVs are affected. 

It says the “ramp-up of new models on the [EV-specific] Premium Platform Electric”, including the new Q6 E-tron, is one factor in the diminishing popularity of the Q8 E-tron, which is based on an adapted version of the Volkswagen Group’s ubiquitous MQB architecture.

The similarly sized, combustion-powered Audi Q8 is built in Bratislava, Slovakia, and is unaffected by the announcement. 

While Audi has not given any sales figures, the Brussels plant produced just 53,555 examples of the Q8 E-tron and its Sportback sibling in 2023, around half the number of Q4 E-trons that were built in Zwickau, Germany.

Audi says it also faces “long-standing structural challenges” at the Brussels plant. Its location close to the city centre makes restructuring unfeasible and there are greater logistical costs associated with deliveries and shipments compared with other factories located outside of cities.

The company acknowledges that jobs may be cut as a result but has pledged to “discuss solutions for the employees” as part of the consultation process.

Volker Germann, CEO of Audi Brussels, said: “The announcement of the intention does not mean that a decision has been made. Nevertheless, this news has been felt very profoundly by the employees in Brussels and by me too. 

“A transparent and constructive dialogue is important in the process that will follow. We will take all perspectives into account.”

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