Audi has ruled out launching a battery-electric version of the A8 when the flagship sedan is redesigned around the middle of the decade, Hans-Joachim Rothenpieler, the automaker's development chief, told Automotive News (subscription required) in an interview published Thursday.

The A8 is an important model in the Audi lineup due to its role as a halo, though relatively low sales (22,300 globally in 2019) means developing a battery-electric version is hard to justify, according to Rothenpieler.

Instead, Audi will focus on adding electric power to SUVs, since the high-riding models continue to outsell sedans by a significant margin, he said.

2020 Audi A8 plug-in hybrid (Euro spec)

2020 Audi A8 plug-in hybrid (Euro spec)

Former CEO Bram Schot only last May said Audi was considering turning the next A8 into a dedicated EV. It seems the automaker has since abandoned those plans. Instead, it will focus on increasing the electric range of the next A8's plug-in hybrid variant beyond the current A8 plug-in hybrid's 25 miles, according to Rothenpieler.

The news comes just weeks after BMW CEO Oliver Zipse said the next 7-Series will have a battery-electric option. Jaguar is also close to unveiling an electric XJ. Neither Lexus nor Mercedes-Benz plans an electric version of their respective LS and S-Class flagship sedans, though Mercedes will launch the EQS dedicated EV in the segment later this year. Audi will also launch an electric sedan in the form of the Porsche Taycan-based E-Tron GT. It's due in 2021.

Audi already sells the E-Tron and E-Tron Sportback battery-electric cars and plans to have 20 EVs in its lineup by 2025. Others in the pipeline we know of include the Q4 E-Tron compact SUV and an A4-sized model that might end up replacing the A5 range.