Traditionally, such controversial
remarks have been made by the likes of Tesla Motors product architect
Elon Musk, or GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz. This time, though, it
was Audi of America President Johan de Nysschen who went a bit too
far in what he said.
Mr. Nysschen was talking with
veteran auto journalist Lawrence Ulrich about the future of fuel
efficient vehicles. As a strong believer in diesel, Mr.
Nysschen is critical of electric vehicles. He told
Mr. Uhlrich that the Chevy Volt was "a car for idiots"
and commented, "No one is going to pay a $15,000 premium for a
car that competes with a (Toyota) Corolla. So there are not enough
idiots who will buy it."
He went on to predict the car's
commercial failure and subsequent government intervention to prevent
another GM collapse. He also expanded more about pure electric
vehicles like the 2011
Nissan Leaf EV. He complains, "[Pure EVs are] for the
intellectual elite who want to show what enlightened souls they
He said that diesel was the smart way to go, though
to address one driving problem -- that diesel fuel quality in the
U.S. is much lower than that in Europe.
Nysschen's remarks angered many and had an embarrassed Audi
backpedaling. Mr. Nysschen issued a half apology on Facebook
claiming that he can't remember using those exact words, though he
does agree with the sentiment. While stopping short of his
claim that Volt buyers are "idiots" he reiterates his
stance that electric vehicles don't make sense from an economic
standpoint and that the government is damaging the free market in
subsidizing them. He says that EVs may be viable in the long
term, but that among other things, the current grid can't support
Many have pointed out that his remarks are
particularly ironic since Audi is debuting a new concept EV at the
Frankfurt Auto Show in just a couple of weeks.
President is not alone in his attack of the Volt and EVs in general.
In July Toyota Motor Sales' national manager for the advanced
technology group, Bill Reinert, said that EVs like the Chevy Volt
were "not plausible" and too expensive.