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Growing Pains of the Audi e-tron Cause Frustration and Expense for New Owners

The e-tron Quattro concept was first revealed by Audi at the 2016 Frankfurt Auto show. It introduced a series of electric and hybrid cars from the German automaker in line with parent company Volkswagen’s commitment to electrify its entire line-up of cars by 2030. The first fully electric Audi did not hit the U.S. market until 2019 with the Audi e-tron. New for 2022, Audi is adding the smaller, more affordable, Audi Q4 e-tron compact SUV and Sportback to its e-tron line-up. Like many electric vehicles, or EVs, the e-tron has had a bumpy start in life. Even the e-tron unveiling planned for August 2018 in Belgium was abruptly canceled following the arrest in Germany of CEO Rupert Stadler in connection with the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal.

With a starting MSRP of almost $75,000, owners of the 2019 expected high specs, high performance, and minimal problems. However, the e-tron has been plagued with technological and mechanical defects.  As a result of its numerous problems, and specifically “drive-system electrical failures along with power equipment issues,” Consumer Reports downgraded the e-tron in its 2020 annual reliability survey, and removed the model from its “Recommended” list. Consumer Reports acknowledged that “[a]ll-new cars and new technology are prone to growing pains,” and Audi confirmed that it was aware of the issues raised and was working on remedies. Meanwhile, e-tron owners are left dealing with malfunctioning vehicles and repeated visits to their Audi dealer.

What are some of the common problems with the Audi e-tron?

1. Software Problems

Issues with e-tron software made news headlines before the vehicle was even released when Audi announced a delay to the European release of the e-tron by 4 weeks to modify software and obtain additional regulatory clearance. Owners continue to have a multitude of software malfunctions on their e-tron such as warning lights coming on for no reason, MMI shortcut keys resetting to default every night, complete MMI freeze, various problems with the navigational guidance system, and lack of connection with the myAudi app.  In fact, Audi has issued a massive 103 manufacturer communications for problems with the electrical system of the 2019 e-tron SUV.

2. Stopping Suddenly While Driving

Owners have reported incidents of the e-tron stopping suddenly and shutting off while driving at normal speeds. Drivers describe terrifying experiences of their e-tron dying while they are overtaking on the freeway, leaving them stuck across two lanes of dangerous traffic in a dead car. Not only is this incredibly dangerous but the repairs are generally major and can take weeks.

The e-tron shut-down appears to be caused in some cases by a failing gasket which allows coolant to leak into the motor. The fix is a new motor which, though it should be covered by the warranty, takes a long time while the dealer waits for delivery of a whole new e-tron motor. Some drivers have been left stranded in another state, hundreds of miles from home, with a vehicle that will not even turn on and takes weeks to repair.

3. Car Dies While Backing Up

Numerous e-tron owners have complained that their car stops suddenly for no reason when backing up:

I was backing out of a charging spot in a parking garage. No obstacles anywhere near the car. The car came to a sudden stop and was turned off.

The complaints are varied – some cars shut down completely and put themselves in park; some shift to neutral and lose power steering and braking; some appear to be related to safety sensors; and some are worse immediately after charging. The problem has not been addressed by Audi, and is often not acknowledged by dealers. 

4. Water Leaks

E-tron owners have complained about numerous leaks in their vehicle, particularly in heavy rain.  Leaks have occurred through the sunroof, where the rear view mirror meets the windshield, into the passenger footwell, and from the tailgate into the luggage area, amongst other places in the vehicle. These leaks can cause significant damage to the vehicle interior requiring additional repairs and replacement of upholstery and parts, and have been linked to a fire risk requiring a recall. In June 2019, Audi recalled 1,644 e-tron SUVs due to “a potentially faulty seal that may allow moisture to enter the battery compartment which could lead to a short circuit or in extreme cases to a thermal event.”

5. Tailgate and Doors Activated Unintentionally

A lot of e-tron owners have had problems with their tailgate closing while they are loading or unloading their trunk, regularly hitting the person. Owners ridiculously find themselves discussing safe places to stand while unloading their groceries on their $80,000 vehicle. The tailgate also has a tendency to pop open if a hose is directed to the sensor area when washing the car, and the doors or tailgate can unknowingly unlock or open if someone with the keys on their person is anywhere near the car. These overly sensitive sensors are a security and safety hazard for Audi e-tron owners.

6. Defective Rear Lights

The license plate light and rear light bar on the e-tron frequently need repair. As one Audi e-tron owner said, it is “pretty much a rite of passage, it seems.” Even if just the license plate light fails, the entire rear light assembly typically has to be replaced. Although this should be a simple repair, it can take weeks for the parts to be delivered from the manufacturer, and the repair to be completed.

Doesn’t the Warranty Cover Any Problems?

The Audi e-tron is a relatively new car and many are still under warranty. This is good news for e-tron owners dealing with the many problems of this vehicle, however it is not the whole story. Numerous e-tron owners report bringing their Audi e-tron to the dealer while it is still under warranty, and the dealer either cannot replicate or cannot understand the problem. EV repairs require different knowledge, skills, and tools, which many Audi dealers do not have. Even when a dealer will admit and repair a defect, the lag time for getting parts is a minimum of a week, and usually longer because EV parts are not generally kept in a dealer’s stock. E-tron owners are then left without a vehicle for weeks at a time. While a warranty is hugely important and gives e-tron owners great legal and financial protection, you cannot drive to work in a warranty.

If you are having trouble with your Audi e-tron, whether it is still under warranty or not, you have options. Lemon laws and other consumer protection laws exist to protect owners of defective cars. Some e-tron owners have obtained compensation or buyback of their e-tron from Audi because of the problems they have had. If you are a frustrated owner of a defective Audi e-tron, contact one of our experienced lemon law team at Timothy Abeel & Associates for a free case review to discuss the options available to you.

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