Audi expects to sell about 900,000 vehicles worldwide this year, a 10 percent decline from a record 2008. But a batch of new vehicles should help buffer the U.S. market, says Audi AG CEO Rupert Stadler.
Currently we expect the U.S. to perform better than the international average, Stadler said today in a conference call with U.S. journalists after Audis annual earnings release in Ingolstadt, Germany.
This year in the United States, Audi will introduce the Q5 compact crossover, as well as clean-diesel versions of the larger Q7 crossover and the A3 hatchback. The brand also will have the benefit of full-year availability of its volume seller, the redesigned A4 sedan, and convertible versions of the A5 and high-performance S5 coupes.
For this reason, Audi of America President Johan de Nysschen said he is cautiously optimistic about the brands prospects in 2009. Audis U.S. sales for the first two months of 2009 fell 25 percent, to 9,375. For the premium segment, sales through February plunged 34 percent.
We think that we are in a very good position to weather the economic storm, de Nysschen said. Our commitment is to continue our focus on image development, enhancing the customer experience via the ongoing development of the dealer organization and to ensure that our brand emerges on the other side in a stronger position than it has ever been in before.
If Audi were to perform better in the United States than globally this year, it would mark a reversal from 2008. Last year, Audi sales rose 4.1 percent to more than 1 million units worldwide.
In the United States, though, sales fell 6.1 percent, to 93,506. Meanwhile, Audis share of U.S. sales grew to 7.1 percent from 6.2 percent.
Of possible U.S. production, Stadler said Audis strategic view of our U.S. business has not changed. But because of the turbulence in the global market, he indicated that a decision might be delayed.
Audi had said it would decide by summer whether to pursue U.S. production, either at a new factory it would build or by partnering with sister brand Volkswagen in Tennessee.
We are not in a hurry to decide today or tomorrow. We take our time, Stadler said. We will do it very professionally, and when things are mature, we will come back and communicate that.