An Audi ute? It sounds crazy, but it could happen.
“I can’t promise that we will do one, but we are looking into it,” said Audi CEO Markus Duesmann ahead of the Audi Group’s annual earnings report, according to Autocar.
“Actually, we will present – not too far from now – maybe something,” he added, though he didn’t provide any other details on what this would look like.
It was produced for just over two years before being discontinued due to slow sales.
Unlike Mercedes-Benz, however, Audi has no substantial history of offering commercial vehicles and has never sold a ute.
It’s unclear whether Audi would follow suit with a conventional combustion-engine, ladder-frame ute like the X-Class, or if it’ll create something different.
Within the Volkswagen Group, the 2023 Volkswagen Amarok will continue to offer combustion engines and a ladder-frame architecture.
It’s based on the redesigned Ford Ranger, though it’s unclear if the tie-up between Ford and Volkswagen could be extended to incorporate an Audi model.
Another option would be to build the Volkswagen Group’s first ute on an electric vehicle platform, like the MEB architecture used on the Audi Q4 e-tron or the new PPE architecture that’ll be used on the Q6 e-tron.
An electric ute could give the brand a rival to the likes of the Rivian R1T while arguably fitting better into Audi’s future plans.
Last year, Audi announced it would launch its last new combustion-engine global model in 2025 — a year earlier than reports earlier this week indicated.
The marque will then begin “gradually phasing out the production of internal combustion engines until 2033”.
However, Audi says it “expects to see continued demand [for cars with ICE] in China beyond 2033, which is why there could be a supply of vehicles there with combustion engines manufactured locally”.
Mercedes-Benz wasn’t the only luxury brand to enter the ute segment.
Lincoln introduced the Ford F-150-based Blackwood for 2002, though it lasted a single year on sale. Its successor, the Mark LT, debuted for 2006 but also failed to meet sales expectations except in Mexico where it lasted another generation.
Cadillac also sold a restyled Chevrolet Avalanche as the Escalade EXT for two generations, though it was consistently outsold by some margin by its SUV counterpart.
This general apathy of the market towards luxury-brand pickups belies the increasingly high transaction prices of this body style.
In Australia, the success of the Ford Ranger Raptor has seen rival brands like Mazda, Nissan and Volkswagen push upmarket with range-topping utes of their own – albeit typically with an overt off-road focus.
In the US, in addition to lairy off-road models like the Ford F-150 Raptor and Ram 1500 TRX, the likes of Chevrolet, Ford, GMC, Ram and Toyota have long offered luxed-up full-sized pickup trucks bearing names like Platinum and Denali.