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Audi's New CEO Admits 2018 Was Not A Good Year

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For starters, his predecessor was arrested and thrown in jail.

Audi needs 2019 to be a good year for a variety of reasons. For starters, it has a new CEO, Bram Schot, who replaced Rupert Stadler. And if you recall, Stadler, who held the position for a decade, was arrested and sat in jail until late-October for his alleged role in the Dieselgate scandal.

On top of that, Audi has been losing sales ground to two of its main competitors, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. It also needs to strengthen its position in the world's largest automotive market, China. Combined with disappointing sales and its damaged image, 2018 was not exactly the best year for Audi. Fortunately, Schot represents a fresh start.

According to Bloomberg, Schot is taking an "all hands on deck" approach after holding his first staff meeting last week. Schot not only wants to improve Audi's image but it also needs an internal culture change. "We must change things together – now," Schot wrote in an email. According to him, 2019 will be a decisive year and told all employees that "we need all of you to exploit our potential and make sure the transformation works out."

Audi's financial success is critical for Volkswagen Group as a whole and, along with some $50 billion in investments marked for electric vehicle and mobility technology development, Schot has a huge task ahead of him. Fortunately, things are looking good as 2018 comes to an end. Just last month, the Audi e-tron GT concept debut at LA to overwhelmingly positive reviews. A production version is due for 2021.

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The e-tron all-electric crossover will be going on sale imminently, thus enabling Audi to compete directly against the Tesla Model X and the also new Mercedes-Benz EQC. The R8 supercar has been given a very well done mid-life update for 2019 and the A4 lineup is also slated to receive improved styling.

Meanwhile, Audi continues to invest heavily in autonomous vehicle R&D. Last year at Frankfurt, for example, Audi showed off three vehicles, two of which were concepts, equipped with Levels 3, 4, and 5 self-driving systems. Of course, the latter two are not production ready, but there was a clear intent to show what's coming in the near future. It will now be up to Schot to put the past behind and re-establish Audi as a luxury, technology, and sales leader in the world's most profitable markets.

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