A3 jumps out of the gate for Audi as VW suffers

Audi is banking on the A3 to compete with compact luxury cars such as the Mercedes-Benz CLA and recruit new customers to the brand. U.S. sales results for the A3 were strong enough to make it Audi’s third-best-selling model in April, after the Q5 crossover and the A4 sedan, which both posted modest sales gains over last April.
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Audi of America sold 2,159 units of the new A3 sedan in April, propelling Audi to a 19 percent U.S. sales increase as sister brand Volkswagen continued to struggle.

Audi sold 15,653 vehicles in April -- its 40th straight record month. Groupwide sales were flat for the month, though, held back by an 8 percent sales decrease turned in by mass-market VW, for its 13th straight monthly decline.

Executives at Audi are banking on the A3 to compete with compact luxury cars such as the Mercedes-Benz CLA and recruit new customers. The sales results for the A3 were strong enough to make it Audi’s third-best-selling model in April, after the Q5 crossover and the A4 sedan, which both posted modest sales gains over last April.

For comparison, Mercedes-Benz sold roughly 4,000 units of the CLA per month after its launch last fall, peaking at 4,895 units in October.

Audi got the word out on the new A3 by holding events nationwide on April 3. Of the 270 Audi dealerships in the United States, about 250 held events.

Audi of America held bicoastal parties of its own, with the Grammy-nominated soul singer Janelle Monae performing live at an event in Los Angeles next to a hologram of the rapper M.I.A., who performed at Audi’s party in New York.

The parties “achieved what we wanted to do,” Audi of America President Scott Keogh said in an interview at the New York auto show, “which was to get back to the nostalgia days in the ’50s and ’60s when you had a moment in time and the car was launched.”

For the VW brand, sales of the best-selling Jetta sedan (down 2 percent) and Passat sedan (up 3 percent) held steady, but an aging lineup and a dearth of fresh products led to another disappointing month.

The company hopes an overhaul of the Golf line, which will now be imported to the United States from Mexico rather than Germany, will help. The redesigned GTI will go on sale in early June, followed by the Golf in August and the Golf SportWagen this fall.

This week VW also launched a redesign of its Web site, VW.com, to move more metal.

In a move inspired by online dating sites, each of the 80,000 cars available at VW dealerships has a unique profile page with its VIN and location.

You can reach Gabe Nelson at gnelson@crain.com.


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