FRANKFURT -- Audi AG, long a laggard in the U.S. luxury segment with sales far below 100,000 units a year, has set its sights on challenging BMW and Lexus as volume leaders over the next eight years.
The push, led by new and redesigned products, will take the German carmaker to U.S. sales of more than 250,000 cars and trucks a year, executives said here last week.
"We want to hit BMW's level," Ralph Weyler, board member for sales and marketing, said in an interview at the Frankfurt auto show.
"We want to be successful in the United States. We feel the potential is high. We have sold 86,000 cars a year in the U.S., but we could triple that."
Audi sold a record 86,421 cars in the United States in 2003, but sales fell off sharply last year to 77,917. Sales for the first eight months of this year are flat at 51,802.
Analysts are skeptical of Audi's ability to hit the ambitious goal, but Weyler said new product will lead the charge.
Audi dealers have never had a light truck to sell, but soon they will have two.
The roomy Q7 SUV, based on the Volkswagen Touareg/Porsche Cayenne platform, debuts in the United States next year at prices from about $42,000 to $60,000.
The debut of the Q7 next year will give audi dealers their first SUV. PHOTO: PHILIP MEECH
Audi expects U.S. sales of the Q7 to reach 30,000 units annually, accounting for half of total production. It is expected to generate the kind of magic for Audi that vehicles such as the Volvo XC90 and Lexus RX 330 have brought to the competition.
The smaller Q5 SUV will debut in 2007 and give Audi a further increase in volume. Audi also plans to bring a hybrid version of the Q7 by 2008.
Also in the pipeline: A two-seat, mid-engine halo car aimed at the Porsche 911 will debut in the first half of 2007. It will be followed by a luxury coupe to compete with the Mercedes-Benz CLS.
This year, the new A3 five-door hatchback reached showrooms, as did the redesigned A4.
"These cars aren't a wish list but a clear strategy," Weyler said. "We have all the ingredients, style and quality. We have to intensify our position and shape our profile."
You may e-mail Diana T. Kurylko at [email protected]