If you had to find a suitable animal for each of the Volkswagen Group's 12 brands, the image of a lizard would come to mind for Audi. A lizard has a striking appearance but is also rather immobile most of the day.
Within the VW empire, no one doubts the competence of Audi's engineers or the ability of the designers to create elegant premium vehicles. Still, Audi did too little in 2022 compared to its premium competitors Mercedes-Benz and BMW. And in 2023, there is little sign of improvement.
Postponed market launches due to software issues, the winding up of the Artemis autonomous flagship car originally planned for 2024 and falling behind in electric cars mean that CEO Markus Duesmann cannot be satisfied with the brand's performance in 2022.
Audi is under close scrutiny from the Porsche-Piech families --- VW Group's majority shareholders who have always had a special affinity for the brand.
New VW Group CEO Oliver Blume -- who also leads Porsche -- has set himself the task of managing Audi more closely.
Audi is currently in a quandary: BMW and Mercedes are pulling ahead with more and more new models, while Chinese premium start-ups such as Nio are putting Audi under additional pressure.
Audi's weakness is noticeable in China, the industry's most important growth market.
Sales of the high-margin A6 fell 31 percent in China in the first three quarters of 2022 and sales of the A8 range-toping sedean were down 36 percent.
"If you look at comparable models to the A6 such as the BMW 5 Series or the Mercedes E-Class in China, BMW was able to increase its sales figures in 2022. So it's not because of the segment. The A6 has a problem in the market. Audi is not seen on the same level as Mercedes and BMW," said Jochen Siebert, head of JSC Automotive, a consulting agency specializing in the Chinese market.
In response to Siebert's comments, Audi pointed to a total of 496,295 vehicles delivered in China in the first three quarters and cited continuing supply bottlenecks, especially with semiconductors, as well as COVID-related production restrictions as reasons for its sales difficulties.