GRAZ, Austria - Audi is confident its new A8 3.3-liter V-8 TDI quattro will quickly find a niche in the European market when it goes on sale late this year.
This is in sharp contrast to rival BMW, which recently introduced a V-8 common-rail turbodiesel in its 740d luxury sedan with a much more modest sales target.
'It is not about saving money -this does not really matter to people buying a car in this price segment,' said Richard Bauder, Audi's director of TDI engine development. 'It will be the pure joy of saving fuel without compromises in speed, acceleration and comfort. This is what will fascinate buyers of our new V-8 TDI.'
Audi plans to sell about 16,000 A8s next year, and estimates more than half will have diesel engines. The new V-8 TDI will be priced at about DM130,000 (euro 65,840, $68,935). It will be followed by a new V-6 TDI using rotary-piston injection-pump technology. The launch date and price for the V-6 have not yet been fixed.
'Our experience shows A8 customers prefer top-specification engines and equipment,' Bauder said.
Audi marketing studies show that up to 7,500 units of the A8 V-8 TDI could be sold each year. BMW sources say they expect to sell just 10,000 740d models during the rest of the life span of the 7 series sedan. It is due to be replaced in 2002.
Audi's new V-8 TDI already complies with stringent year 2000 EU3 emission regulations. BMW says it is 'close to achieving it very soon' with its V-8 turbodiesel.
Early next year, Mercedes-Benz will offer a V-8 turbodiesel with common-rail technology in the S-class.
According to Bauder, Audi has succeeded in its long-term aim to change the image of the diesel engine.
'Thanks to our TDI technology, the diesel has a very sporty image,' he said. 'Now it is perfectly acceptable to drive a luxury sedan powered by a V-8 diesel engine.'