MARBELLA, Spain -- Audi development chief Ulrich Hackenberg gave the strongest hint so far that the automaker will add an SUV/crossover derivative to its TT compact sports car lineup.
At the press launch of the third-generation TT coupe here, Hackenberg said a new, unspecified TT body style is being developed. The TT offroad concept, unveiled at the Beijing auto show in April, "provides an insight into how we might envisage a new model in a future TT family," he said.
A TT crossover variant would meet growing consumer demand for cars with a higher riding position than traditional coupes and roadsters.
Audi will have to expand the TT family to maintain sales of the sports car. Market researcher IHS Automotive forecasts peak output of about 40,000 to 42,000 units for the TT coupe and roadster, compared with 56,000 units for the current car.
Low consumer confidence in many European markets and changing tastes will affect TT sales, IHS says. “Many image- or fashion-conscious buyers are moving to the rapidly growing crossover sector as a means of expressing their taste,” said IHS analyst Mark Fulthorpe.
IHS forecasts do not include any additional TT derivatives.
BMW’s Mini is one of the most aggressive brands when it comes to spinning off derivatives of its base model. In addition to its classic three-door hatchback, Mini currently offers a five-door version as well a station wagon, coupe, convertible, roadster, SUV and even a coupe-like crossover called the Paceman. Together they have helped keep volumes for the brand stable at around 300,000 cars last year even though the hatchback was in the last year of its life cycle.
“Further segmentation of the market will continue as carmakers look to fulfill current customer demands and find ways to meet those that don’t as yet exist,” said an Audi executive, who declined to be named, when asked about an expansion of the TT family.
Audi will begin sales of the third-generation TT coupe in Europe in the autumn while the roadster, which debuts Oct. 2 at the Paris auto show, will launch next spring. The TT is scheduled to arrive in the U.S. in the third quarter of 2015, followed a year later by the roadster.
The TT coupe’s base version with a 230hp, 2.0-liter gasoline engine starts at 35,000 euros in Germany. It is the first car to offer Audi's new "virtual cockpit," an instrument-cluster display that replaces the navigation screen in the center stack.