Environmental pressure, a growing understanding of climate change and increasing concern for corporate social responsibility (CSR) has seen many global companies invest heavily into areas of sustainability. Audi is a great example of this recent shift towards becoming more ethical and more green, thanks to being one of only a handful of car manufacturers that produce Corporate Social Responsibility reports to evaluate their progress in this area.
Published in the summer of 2013, Audi’s Corporate Responsibility Report for 2012 is a major step forward for the carmaker. Revealing the brand’s intentions to become a “CO2-neutral” organisation, the brand emphasises its low CO2 emissions across the range with 41 models available producing fewer than 120 grams of CO2/km.
Audi also highlights its efforts in reducing production emissions with investment into an industrial-scale power-to-gas plant in Germany. Using CO2 and regenerative electricity, Audi’s plant can produce e-gas that can be fed into the natural gas network, a network used by road cars powered by natural gas. This type of fuel is essentially carbon neutral, because the CO2 emitted after combustion had originally been taken from the atmosphere in the first place.
Audi has also been able to brag about its performance in reducing CO2 emissions by 30% per car in production. Ingolstadt, Audi’s main production site is actually already 70% carbon neutral.
The carmaker has also been busy ensuring it can help those aspiring to work in the auto industry, by investing heavily in universities across Europe and helping to make education in the industry more accessible.
Even though this is just the beginning, Audi is clearly aiming to be a leader in automotive sustainability and is therefore stronger for it. Investment into production and vehicle technology can only increase the carmaker’s potential to become carbon-neutral.
Ironically, investment into new technology could also be the cause for Audi’s biggest weakness: its cars’ reliability issues. Fitting complex electronic systems to every single one of its new cars, Audi has received a poor rating in many aspects of reliability.
Probably the most hard-hitting is its engine reliability score. 1 in every 27 Audis on UK roads is expected to have an engine issue according to a 2013 survey by Warrant Direct, meaning the German marque comes second only to MG for unreliability.
With most of these failures coming in the form of electrical issues, the fact Audis rely so heavily on their complex ECUs means despite being largely mechanically sound, a car can be taken off the road for something as simple as a warning light. Audi dealers aren’t cheap either, so unless a driver’s car is still in warranty, the bill to repair their electronic issues can often rack up into the hundreds or even thousands.
Owners would hope that with such a threat of their Audi cars falling ill of electrical faults, at least the dealerships would be helpful and friendly in rectifying the problem. This unfortunately doesn’t seem to be the case, because Audi dealerships across Europe and the US have recently been given a bad name. Offering poor customer service, failing to solve issues and occasionally denying there are issues at all, customers can be left feeling helpless and out-of-pocket when their shiny new Audis remain unreliable.
So whilst Audi has invested heavily into ensuring its cars reduce their impact on the environment, maybe it should invest a little more into ensuring its customers are happy owners. After all, if people begin to turn away from buying unreliable Audis, there’s little point trying to develop even more complex vehicles that could only increase the issue. At the moment Audi is surviving on an old ‘German engineering’ myth that gives people confidence in their reliability, but it’s only a matter of time before word spreads about reliability issues and the resulting running costs.
Audi, 2013. Audi Corporate Responsibility Report of 2012. Audi AG: Audi General Meeting
The Telegraph, 2013. German Cars Lose Out In Reliability Survey. [Online] Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/news/9815860/German-cars-lose-out-in-reliability-survey.html
edmunds.com. Consumer Reports.