FRANKFURT — Audi has switched the launch of its purpose-built electric vehicle to the United States after the arrest of its CEO Rupert Stadler put a shadow over Volkswagen Group’s premium brand in Europe.
Audi was scheduled to unveil the e-tron crossover on Aug. 30 during a glitzy full-day event in Brussels where it will be built. Journalists had received invitations to the launch.
On Monday, Audi said it would hold the e-tron’s launch event in the U.S. instead of Brussels at a later date. It cited “organizational reasons” and did not give a date or place for the U.S. event.
The postponement likely means that rival Mercedes-Benz will be the first German automaker to celebrate the public debut of a Tesla fighter. Mercedes will unveil its EQC in Stockholm on Sept. 4.
The delay in unveiling the e-tron is the latest blow to Audi after CEO Stadler was arrested and imprisoned last week without bail by the German authorities on suspicion he was interfering in their investigation into rigging of diesel engines to cheat emissions tests.
Audi said the e-tron’s sales launch is unaffected by the postponement of the car’s unveiling. “The e-tron will have its market launch at the end of the year. Nothing has changed,” an Audi spokeswoman said.
Audi is already taking advance orders for the e-tron in some European markets. It starts at 80,000 euros in Germany. In May, Audi said it already received 5,500 reservations from Norwegian and Dutch customers.
Mercedes has said the EQC will arrive in dealerships next year, without specifying further