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Audi does Vegas

Fri, 07 Jan 2011

Rupert Stadler, chairman of Audi AG, became only the third car company executive to deliver a keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show, and he did it--as all the best Toastmasters do--by starting with a joke.

“When I received the invitation to speak here this year, I thought: why don't I bring a nice example of an electronic device made by Audi,” said the chair.

“Ladies and gentlemen, meet the Audi E-tron Spyder concept car. And let me tell you--with the ability to go from 0-60 in 4.7 seconds, the E-tron is quite the ‘killer application.”

Not bad for a German finance guy! Look for Stadler to headline the Improv soon. But Audi takes electronics seriously, with a lab in Palo Alto, Calif., dedicated to new inventions in the field.

Stadler had some news among the one-liners, too. Audi showed a concept version of its next MMI interface, which promises to be an even better link between driver and car than the current, generally well-liked unit. A demo of the system was on the stand in the convention center's north hall, along with another concept, a pre-development version of Audi's coming improved heads-up display. Audis will also soon integrate third-party apps, “Much like Apple does for its systems,” Stadler said.

Stadler introduced a software group called e-solutions in the interests of “strengthening our leadership in software design and reducing development and subsequent iteration cycles.”

The goal is control.

“We want to accelerate the pace of innovation in automotive infotainment,” he said. “And we wanted to move Audi from being a customer that tells the supplier what to do, and instead move us into a position of doing, instead of demanding.”

There are about 100 software experts at e-solutions.

“What you're seeing here is that the ideas of electronics, lifestyle and automobiles are becoming ever more closely tied.”

By Mark Vaughn