Audi expects diesel surge; equips more models, boosts ads
LOS ANGELES -- Audi expects to significantly boost diesel sales in North America within four years as it broadens its lineup of diesel-powered vehicles. Diesels now account for less than 10 percent of the brand's sales on the continent.
Audi of America President Scott Keogh says its 3.0-liter V-6 diesel, marketed as TDI by Audi, is a viable option for consumers looking for an alternative to hybrids or electrics.
"When it comes to the consumer's approval factor, for some people it's a big leap to go into electric. It's not as big a leap into diesels," Keogh said on the sidelines of the Los Angeles Auto Show. "The market has been pulling these cars. We will continue to push them out."
Last week Audi said it will add the TDI engine to four more North American models next year: the A6, A7 and A8 cars and Q5 crossover. The A8 diesel goes on sale in the spring and the other three models will follow in the fall.
Audi offers a diesel in the Q7 crossover, and the engine will be updated in the 2013 model.
Production of the A3 TDI stopped in August although the cars are still available on dealer lots. But the diesel will return with the launch of the redesigned A3 in early 2014.
Audi said the new diesel models will have 30 percent improved fuel economy and lower carbon dioxide emissions than comparable gasoline engines.
The A8 TDI will have an estimated fuel economy rating of 24 mpg city/36 mpg highway.
Keogh said diesels account for less than 10 percent of North American Audi sales. Audi has sold about 22,000 diesel units of the A3 and Q7 since they were launched in North America.
By 2016, that diesel share will likely double, Keogh said, especially with the addition of the A4 diesel.
"The key vehicle will be adding the volume model A4," he said. "That will start to drive this."
Keogh said 36 percent of Q7 sales are TDI models this year. About 55 percent of A3 sales this year are diesels.
"These cars are transacting at higher prices, they have no incentives and low day supply," Keogh said.
To generate more interest, Audi will expand its diesel marketing campaign next year, using traditional media and a newly launched social media campaign called "Fuel for Thought." That campaign uses current TDI owners talking about their diesel experience on social media sites such as Twitter.
"We need to get those 22,000 people to tell their story," Keogh said.
Audi reported last week it has achieved a new annual sales record in the United States for the fourth straight year, with 120,420 new-vehicle sales through late November. Last year Audi sold a full-year record of 117,561 vehicles.
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