Fifty years ago, Audi sold its first car in the UK, the F103, a car that was assembled in Ingolstadt, Germany, and which was powered by a 1.5-litre inline-4 engine that is as far removed from electric power as you can get. Fast forward to 2015 and the era of electric cars, and Audi have just sold their two millionth car in the UK, with the Audi Sportback e-tron smashing that particular barrier. It’s fitting that it is a plug-in hybrid, as it acts as a symbol for how far the automotive industry has come since 1965 – as well as how far Audi have come.
Brief History of Audi
When Audi’s now-famous four-ringed cars first arrived on UK shores in post-war Britain, only 32 buyers were willing to give them a go, and they quickly became known as ‘The Audi.’ At the time, the brand had just handed over 50% of their business to Volkswagen, who were developing a reputation for developing budget cars on an unprecedented scale, such as the hugely popular VW Beetle, 60,000 of which were developed at Audi’s Ingolstadt factory each year. The number veritably dwarfed the 32 ‘The Audi’s’ that had found homes in the UK, the land of Audi sceptics.
At this point, it would have been hard to believe that Audi would go on to sell two million cars in the UK over the course of the next fifty years. The brand was flagging, and it was deemed too conservative to really hit home with buyers who were looking for something a bit more exciting now that the second world war was becoming a distant memory. The UK economy now recovered, the swinging sixties were making way for the seventies, an era of high fashion, partying, money, and Barry Gibb. But it wasn’t until the eighties, the era of the UK credit boom, when Audi really found their feet – and their powerhouse identity we still associate them with – with the introduction of four-wheel drive technology and the seminal Audi Quattro, a turbocharged high performer that would come to define the brand. This made way for a whole array of sporty, powerful models that became top sellers. Audi never looked back.
Audi’s ascent to two million sales has not been slow progress spread out over 50 years. Audi’s were indeed hard to shift at first, with most of the 2 million sales arriving in the last two decades, with growth pretty much unbroken and rapid since 1995. 2014 continued the trend, with 158,987 sales made here in the UK. With 51 model types currently on offer to UK customers, ranging from performance cars, to SUVs, to family cars, to city cars that can turn on a sixpence, the choice is varied – and it’s also brimming with quality. The car that broke the 2 millionth duck for Audi, the A3 Sportback e-tron, was the brand’s first plug-in hybrid and demonstrates the brand’s forward thinking commitment to lowering emissions and improving the way we drive our cars.
The Audi A3 Sportback E-tron
So what about the car that has made history, and which has led Director of Audi UK, Andre Konsbruck, to speak for the whole of Audi when he said that the moment was ‘hugely gratifying’? Is it worthy of being a history maker, or will it perennially be remembered for being the ‘car that broke the 2 millionth duck but was actually a bit average’? Audi themselves described it as a ‘stake in the ground,’ which is a pretty apt description when you consider the hallmark it went on to achieve. They must surely have been talking about our green and pleasant land when they talked about a stake in the ‘ground’ – our ground!
It’s essentially a business car that will save businesses a small fortune (particularly small businesses), and which is home to some remarkable range numbers, as well as a classy interior. Practical and polished, this is a high quality product that well deserves its accolades. The real burning question is whether this two millionth car hints at the future – what does it say about the next fifty years, not just for Audi but for the automotive industry in general? Well, sadly, it doesn’t say as much as its closest competitor, the magnificent BMW i3, but it is new and it does tell us that Audi are committed to laying real foundations from which they can expand their repertoire of models. The Audi A3 Sportback E-tron might not hold all the keys to the future, but it’s a real step in the right direction. Well done, Audi! Here’s to the next 16 million!
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