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Audi A3 future secure with electric power

Audi has committed to production of its popular A3 hatch and sedan range – just as its compatriots in BMW and Mercedes-Benz look to pull back or withdraw entirely from the compact car market.

The Audi A3 small car will be renewed for another generation, albeit with electric power – as its key German rivals plan to pull back from the small luxury car race.

Speaking to media and investors earlier this year, Audi CEO Markus Duesmann confirmed that while the A1 city car and Q2 city SUV will be ditched after their current generations, the A3 small hatch and sedan will live on as the brand’s smallest models.

It comes as Mercedes-Benz confirms plans to kill three of its seven compact cars and SUVs – and rumours suggest BMW is re-considering the future of the 1 Series and 2 Series Gran Coupe, at least with petrol, diesel or hybrid power.

“When it comes to the entry level, the A3 or its successor, that will probably be the entry level. So yes I can commit that from the A3 segment, we will be offering a range [of vehicles],” Duesmann told media.

While Audi will still offer a vehicle in the small car segment, it will double down on larger, more profitable electric cars and SUVs in the name of profitability – focused on cars from the A4, up to the A8’s Grandsphere concept-inspired electric replacement.

“[There] are many brands in the corporate group, and we decided that in the volume segment, there are four brands [VW, Skoda, Seat and Cupra] that represent the volume segment in an excellent way, [so] Audi will strengthen the upper range,” Duesmann added.

Details of the electric A3 are yet to be confirmed, however given the current model went on sale in Europe in 2020, don’t expect a new model until around 2027 or 2028 – by which point all newly-introduced Audi models will be electric.

Overseas reports align with this timeline, with executives reportedly confirming production of the next A3 will begin by 2029.

By this time, the Volkswagen Group’s current MEB electric platform will have been replaced by the Scalable Systems Platform, designed to be adaptable for use beneath the Group’s entire range, and account for 60 per cent of sales by 2030.

As Audi commits to small cars, Mercedes-Benz recently announced a plan to scale back its compact car range from seven to four models – with the A3-rivalling A-Class sedan, plus the CLA Shooting Brake wagon and B-Class MPV likely to be the models in doubt.

Meanwhile, a recent report from the UK’s Autocar suggests the future of small petrol BMWs are “under review” – and could be at risk of axing altogether.

According to Autocar, the long-range plug-in hybrid technology required to meet future emissions regulations will be costly to integrate into the brand’s front-wheel-drive ‘UKL’ small car platform, which will be 12 years old by 2027.

“There are a number of issues to consider,” a BMW source told Autocar. “Firstly, the size of UKL makes electrification harder because the potential size of a battery is restricted.

“Secondly, the scale of UKL is an issue. [Cars based on it] sell in very low volumes in the US. The biggest potential market is probably China, in the smaller cities, but there they only want a sedan [saloon], rather than a hatchback.

“But the volumes are quite good and such a car is important as ‘my first BMW’. If we left that market, we would be giving the market share away to rivals.”

Premium car brands have rolled out small cars en masse since the start of the millennium as easy ways to reduce the manufacturer’s overall fleet CO2 emissions, without upgrading its more profitable, higher-end models.

However, Autocar notes, Europe’s shift towards electric vehicles solves the same issue – while delivering higher profit margins for better-equipped, more premium vehicles, which brands have begun selling in greater numbers through COVID-19 and semiconductor shortages.

According to inside sources, a new BMW 1 Series hatch (codenamed F70) was due to launch in mid-2024, followed by a new 2 Series Gran Coupe in late 2024, and a Chinese-market, long-wheelbase version of the latter in early 2025.

Meanwhile, Mercedes-Benz has debuted a new MMA platform, set to underpin the next generation of compact cars – slimmed down to four key models – due from 2024.

Alex Misoyannis has been writing about cars since 2017, when he started his own website, Redline. He contributed for Drive in 2018, before joining CarAdvice in 2019, becoming a regular contributing journalist within the news team in 2020.

Cars have played a central role throughout Alex’s life, from flicking through car magazines as a young age, to growing up around performance vehicles in a car-loving family.

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