Audi promised us so much more. When it came to the electrification of Audi it showed us back in 2018 what that would look like. And it didn’t look like the Porsche Taycan because that is what Audi’s first electric car really is; a Porsche Taycan. What the promise of an electric Audi future was to look like was not the e-Tron but the PB18 e-Tron concept from 2018.
The e-Tron was supposed to be the PB18 concept
Remember the PB18 concept? It made its big debut at the 2018 Pebble Beach Automotive Week in Monterey, California. This was a big event. And the PB18 was spectacular. Its long top tapered back to form an airfoil all integrated together with the look of a Kammback LMP1 racer for LeMans. You can even see a glimmer of it in the e-Tron.
But the e-Tron is just a creased-up Taycan. It has the same wheelbase, two AC synchronous motors, two-speed automatic transmission, and inner body structure. Sort of like chocolate and chocolate-chip ice cream; they’re different, but taste about the same.
Sharing the same platform with Porsche, a production version of the PB18 would have separated the two completely. There would be no confusion between the two which will happen when you see a Taycan or e-Tron in the distance. “I see that low sedan out in the distance; is that a Taycan or an e-Tron?” You would never confuse the PB18 for a Taycan.
We like both the Taycan and e-Tron but they’re the same car
We like both the Taycan and e-Tron. They are both compelling in the flesh. But they’re the same car. Same, like a 1980 Buick Regal and Oldsmobile Cutlass. And that’s OK, we guess, but it is a slippery slope.
Sharing platforms can blur the distinctions between vehicles and that can be trouble for a company. Just ask GM. Distinctions between brands with the same platform got so tedious it was hard to tell one from the other. Especially when painted the same color the visual differences were hard to define.
We see this beginning to happen with other Audi models like the A1 and Skoda Fabia hatchbacks. They both share the same platform and are only one Hofmeister kink away from being almost identical. It also applies to the Audi A3 and Skoda Octavia. Granted, these are lower-end segments that barely catch the enthusiast’s attention. But that’s the point.
The e-Tron should set the tone for the rest of the brand but is derivative
The Audi e-Tron, being at the top of the Audi pyramid, should be distinctive. It should set the tone for the rest of the brand. But it is derivative. And that is something Audi should never want.
So going forward we can see where the VW Group’s zeal in using the PPE electric platform beyond the e-Tron and Taycan could add to the confusion. It is looking to use its MEB electric platform for a wide range of vehicles but the first two look extremely similar. They are the id3 and id4. Profiles are exactly the same and the details that make them unique barely pull it off.
With identical platforms, the only thing left to distinguish between vehicles will be their styling. If the styling can’t separate different models utilizing the same electric platform then there is no reason for the consumer to feel like he or she has a choice.