Audi dealers would like to see the brand move some production to North America to speed up delivery and shield against fluctuating exchange rates.
"When you're building them in Europe, and shipping them here, there is a lag time," said Jack Hanania, an Audi dealer in Jacksonville, Fla., and outgoing president of the Audi National Dealer Council. By building cars in North America, Audi dealers will be on "the same playing field with other luxury nameplates," he said.
"It's a competitive market, and we need to be able to deliver," Hanania said.
The shortfall is translating into lost sales, and dealers worry that an economic meltdown in Europe could hurt Audi's ability to keep U.S. stores stocked, Hanania said.
"We just don't want any interruption in our business plan for 2012," he added.
Despite coming off its best sales year ever in 2011, Audi of America continues to wrestle with tight supplies of many popular models, such as the Q5 and Q7 SUVs.
Audi has plans to increase U.S. sales substantially, topping 200,000 annually by the decade's end. Building cars in North America is part of that strategy, Audi executives say.
But the German premium brand has yet to pick a factory location or identify which models would be built here.
Audi hopes to make a decision by 2015, Johan de Nysschen, president of Audi of America, said at the Detroit auto show in January. But right now the weakening euro is working in Audi's favor, he added, making it easier for the company to profit by exporting them to the United States.
"We are not going to jump to an early decision," de Nysschen said. Even with the most efficient, modern car plant, he added: "You need to build well north of 500,000 copies of a vehicle to justify the investment."