Audi Has New Cars. Audi's CEO Has Been Sacked

It's been a busy week for Audi. There's a lot going on. Many many things.
By Daniel Smith
Cover photo: via Audi.

I don't even know what the biggest Audi news is right now. Is it the launch of a slew of new cars at the Paris Motor Show? Or is the fact that the company has just sacked Rupert Stadler, its former CEO, because "he is unable to fulfill his duties as a member of the board of management" (which must be fancy corporate talk for being in prison)? Ah hell, let's not decide, let's talk about everything at once.

In a time when a lot of cars come in a pretty uninspiring range of colors, Audi wanted to make sure their vehicles stood out in Paris. The Q3 in particular has grabbed a lot of attention for its striking orange paint job. It gives us an idea of what a car would look like wearing a prison uniform. If you want to know what Audi's ex-CEO looks like wearing a prison uniform, though, Paris isn't the place to look. You can just check the cell he's been in for the last three months, following his arrest for witness intimidation as part of the "dieselgate" scandal.

Intimidation is the buzzword at Audi right now; the new Q3 is almost 4 inches longer and a little wider than its predecessor, giving it a more commanding presence on the road. Of course it also means drivers will find themselves in a larger space than they did in previous years, quite unlike Stadler. It's been an expected move since the introduction of the Q2 a few years ago, as Audi seeks to distinguish its former entry-level SUV from its new entry-level SUV because, you know, market segmentation, a crossover for everybody etc. etc.

A new member of the Q2 family met the public in France, the SQ2, presented in bright blue. With a lower ride height than the standard Q2, bigger brake calipers and too many sporty cosmetic touches to count, it's exactly what you'd expect from an Audi S version. The most striking feature is perhaps the front grill, which is very square and features imposing vertical bars, perhaps hinting at the view from Stadler's cell. German authorities are holding him to keep him from hiding evidence that could prove vital in their investigation into Audi's diesel cheating. The SQ2's grill, on the other hand, is only hiding a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, capable of putting out 296 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque to all four wheels.

Like the Q2, the SQ2 unfortunately won't be seen gracing the American car scene any time soon. Nor, in fact, will Stadler; VAG has reportedly paid their former CEO €1.5 million ($1.72 million) to keep him from taking a similar position at another company before the end of 2019. It's still possible that incarceration will do a better job of that than a non-competition agreement ever could, but it's probably still worth playing it safe.

Those in the US also won't be seeing Audi's last new addition to its lineup, the A1 Sportback. The company claims that it is "the ideal companion for an urban lifestyle", and for Paris they decided to dress it up with white rally-style wheels. Prices in Europe will start at €21,150 ($24,300), meaning Audi will have to sell over 300 to raise the €7 million ($8 million) it's reportedly set to pay Stadler in compensation if he isn't eventually convicted.

The company's decision to bet €7 million on its former CEO being found guilty is not currently expected to feature strongly in Stadler's defense case.

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