FRANKFURT -- Audi plans to introduce a full-electric crossover about the size of its compact Q3 SUV as the premium brand fills out its lineup of electric vehicles in a bid to take on established makers of EVs such as Tesla, according to people familiar with the matter.
The car will be built at VW's Zwickau factory in Germany and share technology with its sister brand to save cost, said the people, who asked not to be identified as the plan is not public. It would complement three different versions of Audi's first all-electric model, the e-tron, which was unveiled in California last year, as well as a battery-powered variant of the Q2 SUV designed for the Chinese market, the people said.
Audi plans to launch seven hybrid cars and five battery vehicles by the end of next year, an Audi spokesman said. He declined to elaborate on specific models.
The Zwickau factory, about an hour's drive from the eastern German city of Leipzig, is central to VW’s electrification push. VW is investing 1.2 billion euros ($1.4 billion) in the plant, which now builds Golf hatchbacks, so it can produce as many as 330,000 EVs a year for the VW, Audi and Seat brands.
VW will start building the Golf-sized I.D. hatchback at the plant later this year for market launch in 2020. The automaker has announced plans to start making six electric models in Zwickau by 2021, including the I.D. Crozz compact crossover. The company has said it plans two Audi models at Zwickau, without identifying those projects.
The cars will be based on VW's new MEB electric platform.
Audi, Volkswagen Group's biggest profit contributor that has trailed behind rivals Mercedes-Benz and BMW in recent years, has been overhauling its lineup to narrow the gap in sales volumes and margins.
The automaker also got caught up in the broader diesel-emissions cheating crisis that roiled VW -- culminating in the arrest of former CEO Officer Rupert Stadler in June. His successor, Bram Schot, has warned workers to brace for bigger rather than smaller challenges in 2019.
Schot's success is critical to help VW finance an unprecedented push into EVs meant to bring the automaker even with U.S. leader Tesla. VW plans to introduce more than 50 full-electric vehicles by 2025 across the group.
The Audi spokesman dismissed reports about a series version of the PB18 E-Tron high-performance concept car the brand showed at the Pebble Beach Automotive Week in Monterey last year. CEO Schot had merely meant to state with a sense of irony the company would build the supercar if someone could make the project economically viable, according to the spokesman.