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Audi kills TT, VW cuts Golf lineup to make room for EVs

Volkswagen Group's aggressive $50 billion strategy to put large numbers of battery-electric vehicles on the world's roads likely will also spell the end of the line for some of Audi's low-volume halo models, and on the Volkswagen side, a strategic slim-down of offerings in the mass-market brand's Golf family of vehicles for North America.

At Audi's annual shareholder meeting in Germany last week, brand head Bram Schot confirmed plans to kill the gasoline-powered compact TT sport coupe and replace it with an "emotive" electric vehicle in the same price range. Schot had discussed doing so at the brand's annual press conference in March, but a decision had not been finalized, he said at the time.

Schot told shareholders a similar fate likely awaits the gasoline-powered R8 supercar, according to Automotive News Europe, as the premium brand advances its plans to offer 30 models with electrified powertrains — including 20 full EVs — by 2025.

"In the medium term, we want to have the strongest range of electric models among premium competitors," Schot said.

Audi also plans other changes in its lineup.

"The next generation of the Audi A8 might well be all-electric. Nothing has been decided yet, but I can well imagine it," Schot said, adding the successor of the flagship might be a "completely new concept."

Meanwhile, U.S. Volkswagen dealers were told last week that the brand will pare its Golf family offerings, eliminating the Golf SportWagen station wagon as well as versions of the base Golf after the current generations. The higher-priced Golf R and Golf GTI models will continue to be offered, dealers were told.

Plans could still change, however. The base Golf is the top-selling car for Volkswagen in Canada, and dealers there may not be willing to give up a popular model. If VW Canada is able to make a successful business case for the Golf, it would continue to be offered in the U.S. as well, a source with knowledge of the situation said.

Volkswagen's next-generation Golf has been spotted testing in Europe with a much more advanced digital cockpit, similar to that of the German brand's new high-end sedan, the Arteon. However, the eighth-generation GTI and R won't arrive on U.S. shores until late 2021, as 2022 models, according to people familiar with the automaker's plans.

Unlike most of the present Golf lineup, which is built at Volkswagen's plant in Puebla, Mexico, Golfs for the U.S. will be built in Europe after the generation changeover. The Golf R and e-Golf are currently built in Germany.

"Every automaker is reviewing its product lines right now to see where they could trim," said Michelle Krebs, executive analyst with Autotrader. "It looks as though we're heading into a downturn, and everyone is looking for ways to cut costs and move resources into new technologies as well. Everyone's doing it, and especially the Europeans."

Through April, U.S. sales of the compact Golf family were off 31 percent, at 11,468 vehicles. Within that total, sales of the SportWagen were off 51 percent, while sales of the base Golf were off 20 percent. Sales of the higher-performance GTI and lower-volume R were also down, but the GTI continued to be the most popular model, with 4,789 sales, or 42 percent of the total.

In an interview this month with Automobile magazine, Volkswagen Group of America CEO Scott Keogh said the next-generation GTI "will come [to the U.S.], and it's going to be cool as hell."

Christiaan Hetzner contributed to this report.

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