NICE, France - Audi AG is failing to reach production targets for its aluminum-bodied A2 because of quality problems.
Werner Mischke, the A2's chief engineer, said production of Audi's new small car was running behind schedule. But he said: 'Quality is more important to us than quantity.'
Mischke was speaking at the launch of Audi's new upper-medium A4 here.
Jurgen Gebhard, a member of the Audi board with responsibility for A2 production, has resigned. Audi denied his departure was connected with A2 production problems.
There also is concern within Audi about slow A2 sales and the late arrival of turbodiesel models. Now senior managers at Audi are questioning the A2's marketing approach.
Erich Schmitt, Audi board member responsible for supply and procurement, said, 'We have not succeeded in bringing our message across that the A2 - even with just 75 hp - is a better performer and more fun to drive than its competitors.'
PROBLEM AT ONE PLANT
But it is the problem with quality at Audi's plant in Neckarsulm, Germany, that is causing the most concern. Neckarsulm also makes the upper-luxury A8 and is the center of aluminum-car production for Audi. The first A2s were produced at the plant in November 1999. The car was launched in late June 2000.
Audi planned to sell 20,000 A2s in Western Europe by year end - 40 percent in Germany.
According the latest JATO sales estimates, Audi sold 11,324 A2s in Western Europe by Oct. 31. About 50 percent were sold in Germany.
Audi spokesman Udo Rugheimer said Neckarsulm would be able to fix the A2's quality problems in cooperation with suppliers. He said Audi was working to improve availability of the A2's 1.4-liter TDI engine.
The A2 is the first mass-produced aluminum-bodied small car. Production is proving to be more complex than Audi expected.
Schmitt admitted there are problems, mainly with laser welding.
'We are using very thin aluminum castings, and the production technology is not running smoothly yet,' he said.
'This is the reason why the ramp-up program is behind schedule.'
At the launch of the A2, Audi announced a production target of 300 units a day. Production is running at 260 units daily.