Audi started the biggest investment program in its history last year as part of its effort to overtake BMW as the world’s largest premium automaker by 2020. The Volkswagen Group subsidiary will spend 24 billion euros over the next five years to add new products, lightweight technologies, alternative drivetrains and improve connectivity. Audi CEO Rupert Stadler is particularly bullish about the automaker’s fast-growing SUV lineup. He explained why in an interview with Automotive News Europe Editor Luca Ciferri.
Audi will have 60 models or variants by 2020, up from 50 now. Which body style will grow the fastest?
Globally, we will respond proactively to the growing number of customers who enjoy SUVs’ higher driving position and their sense of enhanced safety. We already decided to go smaller with the Q1 and to go bigger with the Q8. Regardless of the size of the SUV, we strive to be the most sought after model in the segment. For example, the transaction price for a Q7 is very similar to our A8 because our SUVs are not utilitarian off-roaders, they are true premium vehicles, particularly in terms of interior fit and finish.
Last year Audi showed the SUV-inspired TT concept. Is that your vision for a sporty compact SUV?
The feedback for that concept was very positive but no decision has been made on whether we will build something like that. If such a model gets the green light, to be at the top of its segment it would need to be underpinned by the next generation of the MQB architecture. That means it would not arrive until after 2020.
Audi has shown three different Prologue concept cars. What purpose do those cars fulfill?
They provide a glimpse of our future design direction so that we can get some customer feedback. The first Prologue concept, shown last year at the Los Angeles auto show, received really positive feedback. This was very important for us because we had faced some criticism about our design. With that concept we showed where we are headed.
Does the Prologue Avant concept shown at the 2015 Geneva auto show hint at the forthcoming A8 wagon?
This concept, with its strong sex appeal, also generated excellent feedback. For us, it confirmed that our future design direction is correct. Unfortunately, wagons are popular only in Europe, so we doubt there would be enough demand to justify building such a model.
Is the global acceptance of your Sportback models growing?
Definitely. They also enjoy high transaction prices. The A7 Sportback, which is based on the same architecture as the A5 and A6, has average transaction prices close to the A8.
Are more Sportback variants planned?
We don’t discuss future models, but I can say that we are working hard in this sector. Clearly, models with good margins have a better chance of getting production approval.