Some car launches contain moments of such squirming embarrassment your teeth ache. “So, could you sum up in one sentence the sensation of giving birth… to the new Audi e-tron GT,” the presenter enquired of Mark Lichte, the company’s design boss.
It was far from the worst of an excruciating presentation of the Audi version of sister company Porsche’s Taycan electric super-saloon, but for all the shilling celebs and song-and-dance hoopla (as well as overrunning The Archers), the occasion’s portent was clear.
Almost 12 years on from the launch of Tesla’s prototype Model S in southern California, this was a German car maker digitally going to war with Elon Musk’s firm for the hearts and wallets of luxury electric car buyers.
“We don’t have too much headache with Tesla,” said Markus Duesmann, Audi’s chief executive, in a private briefing last week. “We’re not intending to compromise – we will maintain all the qualities we have, making them even better.”
It was a barely concealed salvo at what has been perceived as Tesla’s drawbacks. For all its undeniable innovation, the Model S has had a lot of issues, with reliability, quality and occasional high-temperature events (what you and I might call fires).