HERNDON, Va. -- Audi will add diesel variants to every volume product in the United States within five years as it attempts to meet stricter fuel economy targets while satisfying a surprising surge in U.S. dealer demand.
Audi will add diesel versions of the current-generation A8 and A6 sedans as well as the Q5 crossover. The next-generation A4 is likely to receive a four-cylinder diesel engine by 2015.
"We will roll out the technology across the Audi line," said Johan de Nysschen, president of Audi of America, in an interview last week.
Audi needs more efficient engines to reach stricter future fuel economy targets. But dealer demand is also driving the decision, especially in the Q5 and A3. That marks a sharp reversal in consumer sentiment toward diesels, which have historically been a tough sell to American buyers who have had an image of dirty, 1970s-era diesels.
"Dealers are telling us that there is significant consumer demand" across the Audi portfolio for diesel, spokesman Jeff Kuhlman said.
Audi can't keep its two U.S. diesel variants in stock. Diesel sales account for half of A3 hatchback sales and nearly 40 percent of Q7 orders. If Audi had more inventory, it could sell more diesels, Kuhlman said.
De Nysschen said diesel sales could account for up to 20 percent of Audi's total sales in the United States by 2015 compared with 5.5 percent today.
"We have been planning conservatively and are talking about considerable growth," he said.
As a brand, Audi has set aggressive U.S. sales targets of 200,000 unit sales by 2015, double its projected record finish of 100,000 U.S. sales this year.
Audi considered using its 50-state V-6 clean diesel in the A4, its least expensive sedan in the United States, but decided a V-6 variant "would end up with a car too pricey to sell in volume," de Nysschen said. "The V-6 is very versatile. The dilemma we face is it's an expensive unit."
De Nysschen did not give details about the four-cylinder diesel engine for the next-generation A4.
BMW and Mercedes-Benz are working on similar-sized diesels for the U.S. market. BMW also is preparing to expand its diesel range. It currently offers a 3-series sedan and X5 crossover diesel but may add a diesel variant to the X3 crossover and 7-series sedan. Mercedes-Benz is likely to offer a diesel in the GLK compact crossover and next-generation C-class sedan. Mercedes already has a diesel engine in the E-class sedan and in three crossovers.