Audi steps up activities in China

Ingolstadt. Audi AG plans to further improve its position on the Chinese market.

Currently the management board is considering launching the A3 sports-back in China, Audi boss Martin Winterkorn told Automobilwoche.

The five-door model will be available in Germany from September and should be launched in the US by the middle of next year. The new A6 will be available in China in a long version from 2005, Winterkorn added.

Purchasing director Erich Schmitt, who is also responsible for the China business, is satisfied with the 2004 results so far.

China became Audi's largest export market in the first two months of the year, with unit sales increasing 40 percent. Audi sold a total of 10,986 vehicles, 9,000 of which were A6 models and 1,600 A4s. The A8, the TT and the A4 convertible are also available in China.

During the same period, sales in the US, which used to be Audi's largest foreign market, fell 18 percent to 9,543 cars.

In 2003, Audi sold 63,531 vehicles in China, then its third-largest export market. Schmitt would like China to its biggest foreign market, also with help from the A4.

From April onwards, CDK production of the medium-sized car will be at full capacity. It has already been built in Changchun for the past year.

"We will increase our overall activities -- including advertising -- in China significantly," said Schmitt. "The focus is on our top model, the A8."

Audi plans to expand its Chinese dealer network swiftly. Currently it has 89 dealers in 56 cities. By the end of the year that number should have increased to at least 100 dealers in 60 towns.

Attracted by the huge cost advantages, Schmitt plans to buy more components in China in the future. Those purchases are expected to total around 160 million euros in 2004. Schmitt: "We have overall material costs of 10 billion euros -- there is room for improvement."

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