After just over 20 years, the Audi TT will be killed off to make room for more electric cars. The news, which came out of the German automaker’s annual shareholder meeting, was reported by Bloomberg and other outlets and confirmed in the transcript of that meeting. Executives also cast doubt on the future of the R8 as Audi looks to shift from internal combustion to electric power.
Audi is “shedding old baggage,” Chief Financial Officer Alexander Seitz said at the meeting. He said internal-combustion cars are getting more expensive to develop due to stricter emissions standards, while electric cars “are getting cheaper.” That’s leading Audi to take a hard look at its current lineup of cars — including the TT.
Executives didn’t give a firm timeline for the discontinuation of the TT. The current-generation model dates back to 2014, with only small updates since then. At the shareholder meeting, Audi announced that it will launch a special-edition TT called the Quantum Gray that will be sold online only. But in “a few years,” Audi will replace the TT with an “emotive” electric car in the same price range, CEO Bram Schot said.
Launched in 1998, the first-generation Audi TT became a design icon thanks to its Bauhaus-inspired looks. It helped establish Audi as a design leader and helped shake off the brand’s stodgy, anonymous image once and for all. But the two subsequent generations of TT failed to recapture that magic, and sales have declined recently. Audi sold just 1,300 of them in the U.S. in 2018, about a third of sales highs that Audi was able to reach in the first decade of this century.
Audi’s decision to kill off the TT follows the discontinuation of the Mercedes-Benz SLC, another small German sports car felled by dwindling sales. The BMW Z4 has managed to survive thanks to a deal with Toyota that saw it twinned with the new Supra. Using a common platform for both the Z4 and Supra allowed BMW and Toyota to share development costs, making the two sports cars more financially sound than they would have been if each was developed independently.
The TT may not be the only Audi on the chopping block. Schot said that because the Audi R8 is powered by a combustion engine, it may not fit with the automaker’s “vision” to focus on electric cars. Audi previously attempted to market an electric R8, but it was killed off after less than 100 cars were sold. Schot also said the next-generation version of Audi’s flagship luxury sedan, the A8, may go all-electric, or might be a “completely new concept.”
Audi said it plans to have 30 electrified models (meaning hybrid or all-electric) in its lineup by 2025, and 20 of those will be all-electric. The German automaker recently launched its first production electric model, the E-Tron SUV, but filling out its lineup with more electric cars will require a major upfront investment. Discontinuing slow-selling models like the TT is one way to free up cash for that big electrification push.