VW and Audi chiefs say ICEs will be alive for a very long time, massive investment will continue

Shares in Tesla and other publicly-traded EV-makers are soaring; infrastructure startups are raising record amounts of funding; presumptive President Joe Biden’s environmental plan envisions aggressive moves to electrify the USA’s transport system. Everybody seems to be eagerly anticipating the electromobility revolution.

Everybody, that is, except the legacy automakers—their execs continue to make public pronouncements to the effect that ICE vehicles will remain their main line of business for many years to come.

The latest to clarify that the OEMs’ vaunted electrification efforts remain aspirational plans for the far future: Audi’s new CEO, Markus Duesmann. In a recent interview with the German news magazine Focus (read an English synopsis in ClassicAutomobile or CleanTechnica), he said that ICE vehicles “will be alive for a very long time. This is why we continue to invest massively in the development of combustion engines.”

By the mid-2020s, the share of EVs will rise significantly, but petrol powertrains will still make up 60-70% of the market, said Duesmann (who is a long-time engine developer). “And they must be top. Naturally, we will continue to step on the gas regarding combustion engines.”

Ralf Brandstätter, the new head of the VW brand, made similar comments in an interview with auto motor und sport. In 2018, a VW spokesman said the company would roll out its last generation of gas burners beginning in 2026. Brandstätter seemed to contradict that, saying that VW would be offering ICE models for a long time yet. “We have always said that we would have different propulsion types on an equal footing in the long term. Every customer can choose the technology that best fits their mobility requirements.” He did say that VW would continue to reduce the emissions of its legacy vehicles.

Of course, as many industry observers have noted, there are pro-EV and anti-EV factions at every automaker. Auto motor und sport (via CleanTechnica) sees an internal power struggle at VW over EV sales. “The sales department has apparently fought behind the scenes against the massive focus on electric cars and the deletion of important combustion models.” Reportedly, VW CEO Herbert Diess wanted to replace existing ICE versions of the tiny Up! city car and the Passat luxury sedan with electric models, but dealers nixed both moves, so the gas-burning versions of both cars live on.

Sources: CleanTechnica, ClassicAutomobile, Auto motor und sport, Focus