Despite Audi's oft-stated plans to sell 200,000 vehicles in the United States by 2018, the luxury brand's North American chief isn't completely on board with that target.
Audi of America President Johan de Nysschen says profitable growth is more important than hitting a specific sales number. The U.S. sales division won't pursue that number at all costs.
"I'm not married to 200,000 cars," de Nysschen told Automotive News after Sunday's make meeting. "Everybody talks about my business except the guy who runs it."
Audi AG CEO Rupert Stadler established the 200,000 goal. In 2009, Audi sold 82,716 vehicles in the United States.
De Nysschen said Audi of America needs a directional target but that could be 150,000 vehicles, 200,000 or 250,000.
"We are not going to chase volume for the sake of volume," de Nysschen said. "We will only grow if it puts an extra dollar in the bank. Otherwise it is no good."
De Nysschen said he expects Audi's U.S. sales to increase this year, probably to just over 90,000 vehicles. To feed that growth and help bolster thin dealership inventory levels, Audi will increase production for the North American market by 10 percent, he said. Today's supply is at 38 days versus a goal of 60 days. The supply should begin to increase in late April as the extra production arrives. De Nysschen said Audi should be back at that 60-day level in May or June.
The Audi of America chief also confirmed that Audi will introduce a gasoline-electric hybrid version of the Q5 crossover in late 2011.
But U.S. production of Audi vehicles is not imminent, de Nysschen said. Some dealers want to see Audis assembled at sister brand Volkswagen's new plant that opens in Chattanooga, Tenn., next year. That's not being considered right now, de Nysschen said.
Audi needs to build volume before it commits to North American production, particularly to justify its own plant, de Nysschen said. "You need to build about 100,000 copies of a car," he said.
Right now, Audi's highest volume nameplate is the A4, which sold 37,070 units in 2009.
Audi is first considering ways to generate North American content. De Nysschen said one strategy could be establishing an engine and transmission plant here and shipping the powertrains to Europe for assembly.