NEW YORK -- How confident is Audi that American car buyers will embrace diesel?
So confident, it seems, that the German luxury brand has decided to bring back the five-door version of its A3 compact to the United States without offering customers an ordinary gasoline engine.
Audi announced today, ahead of the New York auto show, that the five-door body style also will be available with a 2-liter TDI engine next summer. Audi already announced plans to sell a plug-in hybrid version of the hatchback called the A3 e-tron.
Though the last-generation A3 hatch was pulled from the United States at the end of the 2013 model year, the car “has an incredibly passionate and loyal fan base,” Audi of America President Scott Keogh said in a statement. “This new version has been one of our most requested models since the announcement of the new A3 family.”
Exact pricing has not been announced, but the diesel A3 will compete with entry-level luxury cars such as the Lexus CT, a similarly sized hybrid-only hatchback that starts at $32,960 with shipping. Lexus sold 15,071 of them in 2013 in the United States.
Audi sold just 7,205 units of the previous A3 hatch in 2012 in the United States, but hidden in those paltry sales numbers was a sign of diesel’s promise. At that time, about 55 percent of buyers were choosing the TDI engine -- far more than the company had projected.
Audi’s marketing experts concluded that diesel’s added fuel economy and torque were making it attractive to environmentally conscious, in-the-know buyers in cities such as Portland, Ore., Seattle and San Francisco.
It was the “perfect ‘creative class’ car,” Keogh said in a recent interview, using a term coined by American social scientist Richard Florida to describe the clustering of technology workers, artists and other “creative” types in urban centers.