Audi pauses e-tron production on battery shortages

Europe

FRANKFURT — Audi halted output of its e-tron SUV to resolve production issues including battery-supply bottlenecks as it prepares to flank the model with a sportier variant, underscoring the struggles traditional automakers face to boost electric cars and challenge Tesla.

Manufacturing at Audi’s factory in Brussels stopped on Thursday and the plant will remain idle until Tuesday, a company spokeswoman said on Monday.

Audi sold about 26,400 e-tron cars last year, she said, declining to comment on estimated deliveries this year.

Audi, Volkswagen Group’s largest profit contributor, had to delay the e-tron’s market launch after its unveiling in September 2018. Audi recalled its first all-electric series model last year over potential fire risk.

The brand plans to add the e-tron Sportback version — which features a more coupe-like declining roofline — later this year as well as a performance sedan dubbed the e-tron GT.

Former BMW executive Markus Duesmann will take over as CEO at Audi in April to accelerate restructuring efforts and try to restore the brand’s technological edge.

In November, the company mapped out plans to cut roughly 15 percent of its German workforce by 2025 as part of a broader push to lift earnings by 6 billion euros ($6.5 billion).

The e-tron production outage in Brussels was earlier reported by Belgian newspaper L’Echo. LG Chem supplies the battery cells for the model.

Audi is suffering from a shortage of battery cells supplied from LG Chem’s factory in Poland, German media reports said.

Audi planned to build 80,000 e-trons this year, but LG can so far only promise 40,000 battery cells, the business paper Handelsblatt said.

LG is Audi’s only cell supplier but the automaker is looking to get supplies from other battery companies, the paper said.

Battery shortages have also hit other automakers.

Jaguar Land Rover is reducing production of the Jaguar I-Pace electric SUV due to battery supply issues from LG Chem’s Poland plant.

The e-tron is a rival to the I-Pace.

Mercedes-Benz has denied a German media report that said it plans to cut planned production of the EQC electric SUV, another I-Pace rival, to 30,000 this year from 60,000.

The report in Manager Magazin said the problem partly stemmed from limited battery supplies from LG Chem.

Mercedes parent Daimler said its production plans for the EQC in 2020 had not been amended.

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