A shortfall of battery parts is slowing down e-tron production in Brussels.
Production of the pure-electric Audi e-tron utility vehicle has slowed to a crawl as the German premium brand faces a shortage of battery parts, according to Belgian news outlet L'Echo, forcing the suspension of work for at least 145 temporary workers at Audi's Brussels manufacturing plant. The issue is reportedly expected to reduce e-tron production by 4,100 to 5,700 vehicles for the first quarter, signaling a less-than-ideal start for Audi's first mass-market battery-electric vehicle.
According to L'Echo, the issue stems from LG Chem's seeming inability to meet Audi's level of battery cell demand, resulting in an insufficient quantity of battery packs for Audi's production targets.
"The Audi e-tron and the Audi e-tron Sportback are our first fully electric vehicles," Audi plant spokesperson Peter D'hoore tells L'Echo. "It is a new drive technology for which we are cooperating with 300 suppliers. The cooperation is therefore complex. We are facing an unexpected situation and have taken measures to stabilize supplies."
Audi had set an ambitious target to produce 24 units of the Audi e-tron per hour, necessitating the hiring of hundreds of extra temporary workers. But with the shortage of vital battery components, output lags at 20 e-trons per hour. In response to the slowdown, Audi had originally planned to send some 250 temporary workers home, but that action was opposed by the union, causing Audi to reduce the number of suspended temporary jobs to 145.
Demand for the Audi e-tron has been strong globally, even though the vehicle has had more than its share of production hiccups. Initial deliveries were pushed back several months from Audi's original target date after issues with the vehicle's software, and even after deliveries finally began, early customers faced long wait times.
Of course, production hiccups and delays are plenty common even with internal combustion engine cars, as automakers sometimes have difficulty in procuring everything needed for assembly from their hundreds of parts suppliers. Lump in the fact that battery-electric propulsion is still relatively new to the automotive mass market and it's easy to see how a manufacturer might encounter difficulty.
It's also not the first time we've seen LG Chem embroiled in issues relating to batteries. Late last year, a lawsuit between LG Chem and SK Innovation threatened battery production, although whether this is directly linked to the e-tron is uncertain.