Audi boss: U.S. is not ready for premium subcompact

De Nysschen: Audi is “seriously looking” at bringing the A1, shown, to the United States in six to eight years. Photo credit: PHILIP MEECH
HERNDON, Va. — Audi of America President Johan de Nysschen says the United States and its small-equals-cheap mentality isn't ready for premium subcompacts such as the Audi A1, which goes on sale in Europe in 2010.

De Nysschen told Automotive News last week that Audi is "seriously looking" at bringing the A1 here in the car's next generation in six to eight years. Bringing it here earlier could damage efforts to build widespread recognition for the Audi brand, he said.

"People who know us consider us very highly, but not enough people know us yet," de Nysschen said last week in an interview at Audi's U.S. headquarters. "I'd like to get that entrenched much more strongly, and it will probably take us another five to six years. That will be the time that you can kind of roll down the market with a smaller car."

De Nysschen said Audi's U.S. dealers asked for the A1, until they found out what it would cost. In Europe, the car likely will have a sticker price of about 20,000 euros or $25,735 at current exchange rates.

"They said: 'This is impossible. You cannot charge this much for small cars,' " de Nysschen said. "In their mind, they were thinking $18,000, because that's the conditioning our society still has."

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