Audi shows its teeth

Automaker aims to conquer U.S. market with A6, A3 sportback

Ingolstadt. A new fighting spirit dominates at Audi.

"We will outdo the 2003 record year again," Audi CEO Martin Winterkorn said.

The Audi chief's goal is to guide the company to its 11th consecutive record sales year.

When talking about his company's models his speech is full of superlatives. He calls his flagship, the new 12-cylinder A8, a "shining example of engineering excellence."

Audi hopes to sell about 23,000 units of the luxury sedan in 2004. Last year the Volkswagen subsidiary sold 19,621 units of the A8 worldwide: 7,049 sales were in Germany and 4,090 in the U.S. By comparison, rival BMW last year sold 57,899 units of the 7 series worldwide: 7,884 in Germany and 20,473 in the U.S.A.

Audi's wants the A8, which outsold the 7 series in Germany between August and November, to beat the 7 series in overall sales in the home market in 2004.

To reach that target the new A8 flagship, the 12-cylinder L 6.0 quattro, will have to play a significant role.

"We will triple the success of the predecessor with the new 12-cylinder A8," said Stefan Ambrosy, head of product marketing. The previous top-of-the-line A8 averaged sales of 400 units a year.

Audi also hopes to sell 3,000 units of the six-cylinder diesel version of the A8 during the first 12 months. The model goes on sale in late April.

Winterkorn wants to gain ground in the American market this year, too.

"We hope to sell between 90,000 and 100,000 vehicles in the U.S.A," the Audi boss told Automobilwoche.

In 2003, the brand sold 86,421 units in the U.S.A.

Winterkorn is positive that the brand's sales will also get a boost from the launch of the new Audi A6, which arrives in the U.S.A at the end of 2004, and the A3 sportback, which will be available there starting in mid-2005.

The Audi SUV, which is derived from the Pikes Peak concept car, also is designed for the U.S. market.

Winterkorn said: "Production start-up will be at the beginning of 2006."

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