WASHINGTON — Audi is spicing up its image with dream cars, adding sporty, exciting vehicles that lure more people to the brand, says Marc Trahan, Audi's No. 2 U.S. executive.
Audi is launching three such vehicles in the United States (all prices include shipping):
1. The midengine, $110,000, 420-hp, space frame R8 sports car went on sale in September.
2. The $82,675, 420-hp RS 4 cabriolet, built by the Quattro GmbH high-performance division, debuts next month.
3. The $51,275, 354-hp S5 performance sports coupe will be available in mid-November.
Audi executives have hinted that other cars are in the pipeline. The A7 coupe, positioned above the A6 models, has been confirmed. It is likely to debut in the next several years, along with an S7 high-performance model. RS versions of other cars also are expected.
The sports cars "help to further strengthen and clarify what Audi is all about," Trahan said at a press event here. "They help us sell in new markets. The S5 and the R8 are also completely new segments for us."
Trahan, director of product quality and technical service, says Audi has never offered a premium sports car. The S5 is a high-performance version of the A5 coupe that goes on sale next March.
Trahan says Audi decided to offer the sportier model first to stir attention.
Audi expects to deliver about 300 R8s this year and 1,000 to 1,200 units in following years. The R8 is back-ordered through the end of next year, he says.
"We are headed for another record sales year, and our incentives average about $3,000 a car — over the past three years we have been able to keep our spending relatively stable," Trahan says.
Audi has tried to increase sales in several key markets. For the year to date compared with 2006, Miami sales are up 24.7 percent; Phoenix, 18.6 percent; New York, 13.9 percent; Chicago, 9.0 percent; and Los Angeles, 7.4 percent.
On the reliability side, Trahan says the Audi A8 large sedan was rated the best in the industry by J.D. Power and Associates in the 2007 Initial Quality Study — an achievement the brand plans to begin touting.