• Home
  • Architect of the future

Architect of the future

As Audi builds up to the Greentech Festival, the Four Rings’ Chief Strategist, Silja Pieh, takes the long view in unpacking the carmaker’s corporate strategy and explaining why mobility must be personal as well as, purpose-driven and sustainable and why it needs meaningful technologies.

Text: Patrick Morda; photo: Robert Fischer (portraits), Christian Werner Reading Time: 5 min

Portrait of Silja Pieh in profile.
Silja Pieh knows what Audi is all about: She joined the Four Rings for the first time back in 2012, before leaving the company temporarily. One of her roles during that time was that of CFO of Autonomous Intelligent Driving (AID) in Munich, overseeing this emerging field. Since August 2020, the business administration and economic geography graduate has been in charge of corporate strategy at Audi.

Audi is a founding partner of the Greentech Festival (GTF), which focuses on sustainable lifestyles. When the event opens its doors at the former Berlin Tegel Airport this year, the carmaker will showcase its vision of tomorrow’s mobility in keeping with its Vorsprung 2030 strategy. Although Silja Pieh is regarded as the strategy’s architect, the business administration and economic geography graduate is quick to point out that Vorsprung 2030 is not a document drafted by external consultants. Instead, it arose out of input from the Audi 500+ team – an employee collective with representatives from each of the company’s divisions as well as the Chinese and U.S. markets.

 

Ms. Pieh, first off, what does a strategy entail?

Basically, a strategy lays out a roadmap to achieve a distinct goal in the future. In order to serve as a springboard for a recommended course of action, it must focus on a long-term approach and be couched in specific, easily comprehensible language. In other words, Vorsprung 2030 aims to put Audi on the strongest possible footing in the coming decade.

 

What shape and form do you think mobility will take in 2030?

Although highly automated driving is often mentioned in this context and I’m a firm believer in its potential for the future, I don’t want to single out any one technology. I expect that, by then, battery-powered electric vehicles will have gone mainstream. For them to serve as a much needed lever in reducing the mobility sector’s greenhouse gas emissions, we require a sufficiently extensive network of charging infrastructure to supply them with green electricity. I’m optimistic that we can put this in place.

Vorsprung 2030

Together with some 500 employees from every step on the corporate ladder, representatives from the Chinese and U.S. markets as well as external experts, Audi spent months analysing more than 600 global mobility industry trends that could have a bearing on the company by 2030. Based on the findings, the Four Rings pinpointed strategic spheres of activity, one of which was the decision to focus exclusively on developing all-electric vehicles from 2026 onwards and phase out internal combustion models by 2033.

“Rather than a sustainability strategy, what’s needed is a sustainable business strategy.”

Silja Pieh

To develop the strategy, you analysed hundreds of global trends. Were there any surprises?

I was struck by how premium customers continue to set great store by vehicle ownership – despite all the talk of shared mobility. More than ever, people regard and value their own cars as spaces that add to their personal quality of life. This has further vindicated our belief that the Four Rings’ mobility offerings must be both sustainable and customisable.

 

So, going forward, it would be difficult to set yourself apart solely on the basis of sustainability?

When we conducted our extensive interviews with customers and employees about the values that continue to resonate with them, sustainability was by far the most important one. But you need to take an all-round view of the concept. That’s why we conceived sustainability as an integral component of the 360-degree Vorsprung 2030 corporate strategy right from the start. This spans everything from vehicle or drive concepts through the supply chain to social responsibility and the increasingly important concepts of circular economy.

A view of the aircraft hangar at Berlin’s Tegel airfield.
From 22–24 June, visitors will be welcomed into a roughly 7,000-square-metre aircraft hangar where they can explore the sustainable lifestyle ideas of some 200 exhibitors as well as attend conferences, panel discussions and award ceremonies. The Audi driving experience offers the chance to get a taste of modern mobility on the airfield.

You will personally be taking up the topic of circular economies at the GTF. How does this fit with the festival?

Especially when it comes to cutting CO2 emissions, we consider not only the use phase but also the entire vehicle life cycle. By harnessing circular economy concepts in the production of high-voltage batteries, for example, we can reduce our dependence on certain raw materials and global supply chains. With the help of modern technologies, we maximise recycling rates and strive to reuse resources. In our mission statement, we describe this as “meaningful technology to keep the world in motion.”

 

That makes a lot of sense, especially as the GTF also aims to spotlight technological solutions.

Exactly. At Audi, we believe in technology – not engineering for the sake of going higher or faster but rather purpose-driven solutions that make a valuable contribution.

 

At the end of the three-day festival, what takeaways do you have for your work?

More than anything else, the festival is a think tank and an opportunity for intensive dialogue with committed but questioning stakeholders. What’s more, the ideas that the exhibitors present on a wide variety of topics are a fertile source of intellectual inspiration, which enriches our strategy process.

Audi x Greentech Festival

From 22–24 June, Berlin will host the fourth staging of the Greentech Festival. This year marks the first time it is being held at the former Berlin Tegel Airport. As a founding partner who came aboard in 2019, Audi is not only an active festival organiser but also a participant. For more on this year’s event and the flanking Green Awards, go to  www.greentechfestival.com

“More than anything else, the Greentech Festival is an opportunity for intensive dialogue with committed but questioning stakeholders.”

Silja Pieh

How do you know for sure whether a strategy or course of action is the right one?

As a rule, a strategy should be robust and derived from sound megatrends. In the final analysis, however, we’re talking about future projections and uncertainty is part and parcel of that. For Vorsprung 2030, we looked ten years ahead, and it goes without saying that things can change in that time. We keep an eye on that and, of course, respond as needed. That said, it is important to stay the course as far as possible and refrain from making permanent deviations. Sometimes, we just have to weather certain developments.

View across the airfield to the former terminal.
Plans are in place to build the Urban Tech Republic research and industrial park for urban technologies on the more than 200-hectare site of the former airport. The 2022 Greentech Festival is the first major event to be staged at the airport since it ceased operations at the end of 2020.
Three-quarter view of the rear of the Audi RS e-tron GT

Spellbindingly sporty:

One of the Four Rings’ all-electric models, the Audi RS e-tron GT is the face of modern mobility at the Greentech Festival. Experience the gran turismo at the 2022 GTF or learn more about it here.

Learn more

Audi RS e-tron GT: Power consumption (combined*) in kWh/100 km: 22.1–19.8CO₂ emissions (combined*) in g/km: 0
Information on fuel/power consumption and CO₂ emissions with ranges depending on the selected equipment of the vehicle.
Only consumption and emission values according to WLTP and not according to NEDC are available for the vehicle.

German model shown. Stated specifications apply only in Germany and are not applicable in other regions.

Audi RS e-tron GT: Power consumption (combined*) in kWh/100 km: 22.1–19.8CO₂ emissions (combined*) in g/km: 0
Information on fuel/power consumption and CO₂ emissions with ranges depending on the selected equipment of the vehicle.
Only consumption and emission values according to WLTP and not according to NEDC are available for the vehicle.

German model shown. Stated specifications apply only in Germany and are not applicable in other regions.

Your browser does not seem to be up to date. Maybe our website does not work optimally. Most browsers (but not MS Internet Explorer 11 & older) work fine.
We recommend you to update your web browser!
The latest version can ensure a good result anywhere on the internet.

Thank you very much for your visit.

Your Audi Team