Audi Sees New Brand of Luxury Buyer in its FutureBy Michelle Krebs April 20, 2010
The luxury buyer returning to the automobile showrooms as the economy emerges from its deep recession is a different kind of buyer with a new set of requirements, says the head of Audi of America.
"At Audi, we believe the future belongs to the automaker that can best define - and deliver - what we are calling progressive luxury," Audi of America President Johan de Nysschen told reporters at the Automotive Press Association in Detroit this week.
In a video interview with AutoObserver after his speech, deNysschen insisted this current era that he called the end of excess is not a passing fancy but an enduring trend.
"There will always be people of enduring achievement who are well rewarded for their work - and people who will see to reward themselves with cars from companies of enduring achievement," he said. But, he added, "those purchases will need to square with the ethos of an era that has been called the end of excess."
Beyond styling, technology and performance, luxury buyers are asking what impact they are having on the environment, how often they will need to fill their tanks. "And more importantly, what legacy we are leaving."
Not surprisingly, deNysschen sees Audi, with its diesel-powered vehicles and some upcoming hybrids and electric vehicles, is best positioned to respond to the requirements of the so-called progressive luxury buyers.
And there's growing evidence that he's right.
For the first time ever in the January-March 2010 period, Audi zoomed past Mercedes-Benz in global sales for a quarter, and Audi was nipping at the heels of No. 1 luxury maker BMW.
In the U.S., Audi claims it had the largest year-to-date sales increase of any luxury brand at nearly 35 percent for its strongest first quarter in Audi's history of U.S. sales volume, which gave it an additional point of market share from a year ago.
"In America, we are experiencing what you'd call an enviable problem: we're constrained by supply," said deNysschen. But that doesn't mean Audi will build a factory in the U.S. anytime soon, however, as deNysschen told AutoObserver the company still does not have the sales volume in the U.S. to make economic sense of a factory.
He added that while Audi exceeds Mercedes-Benz globally now and is closing the gap with BMW, Audi is likely to remain well behind those brands in the U.S. While Audi will make gains in the U.S., it will make larger ones elsewhere in the world, notably in China. -- Michelle Krebs, Senior Analyst and Editor at Large
Photo by Audi
Audi of America President Johan deNysschen