Audi's Martin Winterkorn: "We still have a great deal of catching up to do."
To achieve that ambitious goal, Chairman Martin Winterkorn aims to halve the faults in new Audi models and improve the Volkswagen subsidiary's sales organization.
"The more dealerships I see, the clearer it is to me that we still have a great deal of catching up to do," Winterkorn said in an interview here.
Audi was eighth in the latest J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Study in the United States, up from 11th in 2004 but behind rivals BMW (third) and Mercedes-Benz (fifth).
"In two years, at the latest, we want to be in the top five," Winterkorn said.
The study ranks the number of problems per 100 vehicles in the first 90 days of ownership. Audi had 106 problems per 100 vehicles, compared with 104 for Mercedes and 95 for BMW, which has passed Mercedes to become the world's top-selling premium brand.
What is driving Audi's plan is simple economics. "There is no question that we have to bring in more revenue per vehicle to improve our total results," Winterkorn said.
Audi fares worse in this area than Mercedes and BMW, but Winterkorn wants that to change.
"There is no longer a reason that an Audi should not cost as much as a comparable competitive vehicle."
To excite customers' interest, Winterkorn is expanding the range of luxury features that Audi offers. For example, the upper-premium A8 soon will offer high-end options such as carbon ceramic brakes and a 14-speaker, 1,100-watt audio system from Bang & Olufsen.
Despite lower investment costs, Winterkorn also expects the number of model variations to increase greatly over the next five years.
Winterkorn confirmed that the company is working on a convertible based on the A3, as well as on an A5 coupe, a compact SUV and a crossover vehicle.
"The trick will be introducing as many derivatives as possible into the market, he said, "with little money and at low cost."