Audi of America ended 2011 with its best U.S. sales year ever, but in 2012, it will struggle to keep dealer lots stocked with many popular models, including the Q5 and Q7 crossovers, a top Audi executive said.
That could cost sales, but in turn help Audi hold the line on retail incentives and increase dealer profitability, Audi of America President Johan de Nysschen said in an interview.
"We are supplying more vehicles than ever before," de Nysschen said this month on the sidelines of the Detroit auto show. "The challenge we face is that customers also want more vehicles than ever before."
The inventory constraints are a sign of Audi's fast-growing success in the U.S. luxury market, but also a potential headwind to future growth.
Seven years ago, Audi dealers had to put the hard sell on buyers to move cars off their lots, de Nysschen said. "It was a little bit of a move-the-metal mind-set and we needed to change that," he said. Now some vehicles are selling almost as soon as they can be delivered from the shipping ports.
Audi's U.S. inventory only crested a 30-day supply three times in 2011 -- at the end of January, April and November. At the end of May it fell to as low as a 20-day supply.