AVON, Colo. - Audi of America Inc. has begun retrofitting electronic stabilization systems on TT Coupes and TT Roadsters sold in the United States and Canada, but the makeshift assembly line in Houston will not get much work.
No more than 700 TT owners - 12,000 were eligible - have accepted the company's offer for the retrofit, said Len Hunt, vice president of Audi of America.
Most TT owners in Germany have had the retrofit. But in the United States, the reaction has been indifference.
'It's really not a safety issue here,' said Hunt, here for the launch of Audi's 2001 allroad quattro hybrid vehicle. 'Those TT owners who are asking for the retrofit want it mostly as a performance additive for their car. They want the latest technology.'
Audi of America is following the lead of its parent company, Audi AG, which in early February offered to install the electronic stabilization program, or ESP, to quell mounting concerns in Germany over the car's stability at high speeds.
The TT's stability came into question after five people died in high-speed crashes in Germany late last year. Audi investigated and determined the car was safe but offered the retrofit anyway.
Hunt wanted TT owners in the United States and Canada to have the same opportunity. He settled on a facility at Audi's port in Houston, one of five ports where Audis arrive from Europe and are shipped to dealers.
Audi's electronic stabilization program senses and corrects oversteer or understeer by regulating engine power and brakes.
Since TT owners never clamored for the electronic stability program in the United States, Hunt estimated that only 10 percent would take Audi up on its offer. But not even 6 percent have done so.
Audi dealer Adolf Stammler, who owns Stammler Imports Inc. in Boulder, Colo., said there has been no rush of customers wanting the retrofit.
GONE TO HOUSTON
'So far, I've only had five takers, and we've already sent those cars off to Houston,' said Stammler, a member of the Audi National Dealers Council. We have different driving conditions in this country. We don't routinely drive 120 mph here.'
Some equipment that was used to retrofit the electronic stabilization program on cars in Germany was shipped to Houston. About 30 people, mostly from Germany, are working in the Houston facility.
Audi of America has told TT owners about the retrofit. The owners are told to contact a call center at Audi of America's headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich., to schedule a date for the retrofit. Owners leave the vehicle at their dealership and get a free loaner there.
The dealerships, Stammler said, fill out an inspection report and then put it on a truck bound for Houston.