Audi Chases BMW for Global Luxury Auto Crown

Posted by Dale Buss on September 11, 2012 11:46 AM

Audi is feeling its oats worldwide, threatening BMW's global sales lead in the premium-vehicle segment as never before — even in advance of a planned series of launches of new Audi crossover-utility vehicles that will help the brand extend its footprint in a relatively new vehicle segment for the company.

Audi trimmed BMW's lead in 2012 luxury-car sales worldwide to just 2,110 vehicles by the end of August, compared with a 40,000-vehicle deficit at the same time last year. Audi is being fueled by growth in China and in the U.S. in particular, reports Bloomberg.

The Volkswagen-owned luxury brand already had staked out a plan to overtake BMW for global sales-volume leadership by 2020. But Audi is likely to pass BMW years ahead of that target — unless "there are surprising shifts in market share which I don't expect, especially in China," Daniel Schwarz, a Frankfurt-based analyst for Commerzbank, commented. "They are the strongest-growing luxury brand, and they just launched the A3 [hatchback], which is close to being their best-selling car in a peak year."

Yet for Audi, the future may be more about crossovers than even its best-selling cars. Just as the brand has been establishing itself more firmly in the top of the luxury segment in the United States with its A6, A7 and A8 top-shelf sedans — and, now this fall, performance-oriented "S" versions of each of those nameplates, promoted in the automaker's current "Suspect" commercial — comes word that much of Audi growth in the United States and elsewhere henceforth will come from crossover-utility vehicles.

Like its German counterparts BMW and Mercedes-Benz, historically Audi has been mainly a sedan brand. But its Q7 (which shares a mechanical platform with the Porsche Cayenne CUV) has caught on in the U.S. and other markets, in part because it comes in a clean-diesel version.

And, as Automotive News notes, Audi will begin building a smaller Q5 CUV in a new factory in Mexico beginning in 2016. Within the next few years, Audi also plans to bring its compact Q3 crossover to the U.S. market to compete with the BMW X1 and Range Rover Evoque.

For Audi to "continue [its] growth track, they need to do well in these crossover segments," Jeff Schuster, head of forecasting for LMC Automotive, told the magazine.

That's exactly what Audi intends to do.

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