In an effort to catch up, Audi is building an electric vehicle plant in Chengchun and has already rolled out its Q4 E-tron and Q5 E-tron Roadjet in China and will add the RS E-tron GT later this year.

But the bulk of its sales are conventional cars.

Audi’s deliveries in China slumped 8.4 percent to 643,000 vehicles in 2022, but still comprised 40 percent of its global sales.

Volkswagen’s efforts to transition to the new automotive era has been fraught with setbacks, and delivering fresh momentum is among the most pressing tasks for the auto group’s new CEO Oliver Blume.

A chaotic software push — now bundled under the Cariad unit — has been one of the biggest headaches and reflects the difficulties facing an old-school engineering company to integrate new skills.

For a time, Audi was overseeing an initiative to develop a common operating system across Volkswagen’s 12 brands, and customers have grappled with unnerving glitches and trips to the garage instead of receiving over-the-air updates like Tesla.

New software-led common vehicle underpinnings have been postponed by several years with significant delays for key new models like the Audi Q6 E-tron and electric Porsche Macan.

Volkswagen last week revealed a jump in planned spending, partly driven by a push to improve its lineup in China.

“China is the new benchmark for us regarding development time,” Duesmann said.

Along with the rest of Europe, Germany is caught between China’s growing ambitions and U.S. efforts to lure more investment.

The European Union unveiled a response this week with the Net Zero Industry Act — a raft of new measures aimed at nurturing green tech and securing raw materials.

The EU needs to find the right answers to maintaining the bloc’s industrial competitiveness and avoid being left behind in these shifts, the Audi chief said.

“It’s a European question and it’s urgent,” said Duesmann. “An enormous amount is happening in China and the U.S., and we, of course, can’t look away. Otherwise, the marathon runners will have turned the corner, and we won’t see them anymore.”

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