• Audi wants to stop building its Q8 e-tron, citing slow sales and difficulty in updating the factory where it’s built
  • The automaker said there is a “global decline” in orders for luxury EVs, and that the model just isn’t in-demand
  • Other automakers are reassessing their electrification plans, as well, scaling back production promises

Audi may be pulling the plug on its Q8 e-tron as it struggles to find buyers for the all-electric model. The German automaker revealed it wants to end production early at the factory where it’s built in Brussels, Belgium, which could ultimately result in the plant closing entirely.

The Q8’s woes are tied to a combination of factors, Audi said, including “a global decline in customer orders in the electric luxury-class segment.” In Canada, the 2024 Q8 e-tron starts at $96,250, and the more powerful SQ8 at $113,434. It’s also an aging model overall despite its updates, having been introduced in 2018; now models are coming out on the company’s new-and-improved Premium Platform Electric architecture.

The plant itself also presents issues, as it’s located close to the city centre. That makes it difficult to update the plant and adds to the logistics costs of servicing it. Exactly when the last Q8 will roll out is hasn’t been determined.

Meanwhile, Audi’s parent Volkswagen Group is continuing to build its massive battery plant in St. Thomas, Ontario; and according to a report from Automotive News Canada, VW may be looking at New Brunswick as the site of a new factory to make battery materials. Specifically, it’s Ionway, a joint venture of Volkswagen’s PowerCo battery division, which is building the St. Thomas plant; and Umicore, a materials company based in Belgium.

New Brunswick is just one of “multiple locations” under consideration globally for the plant, but federal records show that the Canadian feds have been approached by Ionway about government policies that could help with the decision.

But while Audi wants to retire the Q8 e-tron, it isn’t the only auto manufacturer that’s pulling back from an initial rush into electrified vehicles (EVs). Some others are also pulling back and slowing down their plug-in plans, either locally on or a global basis.

Ford: Delays for new EVs in Oakville, Ontario

The Ford Motor Company of Canada Limited assembly plant in Oakville, Ontario, in 2018
The Ford Motor Company of Canada Limited assembly plant in Oakville, Ontario, in 2018Photo by Peter J. Thompson /Postmedia

Ford announced in April of 2023 that it would retool its plant in Oakville, Ontario, switching it over to EV production instead of the gasoline-powered Ford Edge and Lincoln Nautilus. The $1.8-billion investment would add an assembly facility for battery packs; and in its agreement with Unifor, the union representing the plant’s workers, Ford planned to build five electric models. Initial production was slated to begin in late 2024.

But in April 2024, we reported that while Ford is retooling the plant, it had delayed a new three-row SUV planned for the facility, which was supposed to launch in 2025, but is now scheduled for 2027. The automaker also set back a planned electric pickup, code-named “T3,” from 2025 to 2026. And in Tennessee, construction of Blue Oval City, a massive production campus dedicated to all things electric, has also been delayed, and is now expected to be finished in 2026 instead of 2025.

General Motors: No word when its Ontario plant will start making EV components

General Motors planned to convert a portion of its factory in St. Catharines, Ontario, to switch over from making V6 engines and six-speed transmissions to producing electric-drive propulsion units for EVs. The plant still makes a V8 engine and two other transmissions, and it appears the EV retooling is still going on; but as of June 2024, GM was reassessing exactly when the EV units would actually go into production.

A worker assembles a V8 engine at General Motors' St. Catharines, Ontario plant
A worker assembles a V8 engine at General Motors’ St. Catharines, Ontario plantPhoto by General Motors

According to the union that represents the workers, the automaker “verbally relayed news of a delay in the (EV) project through group leaders,” without any details. A union official said that was unusual, as official announcements are always sent in writing on company letterhead.

In 2020, GM invited Driving.ca to a sneak preview of its upcoming all-electric lineup, showing off its new Ultium EV platform and a promise of ten new vehicles built on it. During the event, CEO Mary Barra said the company’s goal was to sell one million EVs per year by 2025. It sold some 2.6 million vehicles in the U.S. alone in 2023, but of those, only 75,386 were entirely electric.

Mercedes-Benz: Internal-combustion “well into the 2030s”

2024 Mercedes-Benz EQB 350 4MATIC
2024 Mercedes-Benz EQB 350 4MATICPhoto by Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz announced in 2021 that it would offer an electric version of every one of its models by 2025, and then nothing but EVs by 2030 — well, almost, since it added that it would be EV-only “where market conditions allow.” It didn’t specify beyond that, but that pretty much meant that Benz’s internal-combustion engine wasn’t being 86’d entirely.

But in its annual report, released in February 2024, the automaker said that while it “is taking the necessary steps to go all electric,” that “customers and market conditions will set the pace of the transformation.” Instead of EV-only by the end of the decade, Mercedes-Benz said it “plans to be in a position to cater to different customer needs, whether it’s an all-electric drivetrain or an electrified combustion engine, until well into the 2030s.” That will include hybrids and PHEVs, but they’ll still need gas in their tanks.

A new report said that EV growth is actually stronger in Canada than in the U.S., but overall, EV sales are continuing to increase in both countries. The problem is that it isn’t happening as quickly as regulators and automakers thought it would, with the result that some in the industry are having to step back a bit. We’ll have to wait to see exactly what happens and how it all plays out in the end.

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