News - Audi
Audi embarks on huge 25-model launch program
Fresh faces, all-new models, EVs and major incentives to fuel Audi’s sales recovery
7 Feb 2020
By NEIL DOWLING
AUDI Australia has unveiled a sweeping customer-focused value-added plan as part of a multi-model attack on the market to revive a two-year slump in sales.
Pricing reductions and increased features are key to the Australian initiative that will this year see 25 new models and variants launched, capped by the start of the German prestige brand’s “electric journey” with two full-electric E-Tron models on sale by the end of the year.
In an interview with GoAuto at the Bathurst 12 Hour endurance race last weekend, Audi Australia director of product planning and pricing Shawn Ticehurst said the long-awaited all-new E-Tron twins, which follow limited-run plug-in hybrid A3 and Q7 ‘e-tron’ variants in previous years, will be priced below $140,000.
Some of Audi’s model lines have already received their upgrades while others are to be launched this year with similar value-added incentives.
“In 2020 we have an unbelievably exciting year,” Mr Ticehurst said. “I can’t recall a year like we are looking at in 2020, after 26 years in the business.”
The thrust is to recover sales volume that has sagged in recent years, peaking at 24,258 units in 2016 but falling for three consecutive years to 15,708 in 2019.
Audi Australia was hit by a combination of delays in new-model transitions and, in company with some other European car-makers, fuel and emission testing hold-ups and some cases where stock was delayed because of quarantine issues.
Along with the 25 new variants, Mr Ticehurst said the Australian subsidiary last year “took the initiative with every car we had on sale or were going to launch in 2019 and 2020, to make a huge boost in the area of customer value”.
And the early results are positive, with VFACTS figures released this week showing Audi’s sales in January were up 12.9 per cent on the corresponding month last year.
Mr Ticehurst said performance models feature prominently in Audi’s clawback.
“In the case of the S3, we added nearly $9000 of customer value in the form of additional features,” he said.
“We had a very clear strategy around adding value that will flow through to all our future S models, and then we’ll turn it up a level for the RS models.
“At the same time, we will ensure the exterior design of these models is the best we can possibly get.
“This means that Australian customers will get, for example, the best wheels in the world. The interiors are fitted with Nappa leather and sports seats to make it the best possible interior. There’s also Bang and Olufsen sound systems, and so on.
“Little surprise features are also there for customers – metallic paint is now standard and certain things that customers may have expected on the options list are on the standards list.
“And on top of that, there is really good technology. We went through every car and made sure the driving technology would give the customer the best experience.
“With that, the customer will come back and want another S or RS model.”
Mr Ticehurst said the forthcoming S3 sedan and hatch (Sportback), S4 sedan and wagon (Avant) and S5 in its three body styles (coupe, cabriolet, Sportback) would each carry more than $10,000 worth of extra value.
“The TT S received its model upgrade in 2019 so we took the opportunity to make a boost around those same principles,” he said.
“The S3, S4 and S5 were delayed because of the fuel testing related to the introduction of the WLTP.
“The TT S was in a product improvement cycle so it had an update at the same time as the WLTP delay.”
Mr Ticehurst said that updates to the features list were made when Australia learnt of the possible delays caused by testing to the tougher new WLTP emissions regulations.
“So we took the opportunity to strengthen the portfolio. We had to ensure the 2019 cars were as strong as possible in terms of value for money,” he said.
“The SQ5 added $10,000 of value and we kept the price basically the same.
“The SQ7 had about $18,000 of value and there was, in Q3 last year, a small price increase. There were no international changes to the SQ7 specification and so it was an all-Australian initiative.
“The S4 and S5 get model updates in quarter three so they will roll out as facelifts. The SQ5 will continue but there will be an extra engine with the return of the diesel.
“The S6, S7, S8 and SQ8 all get full model upgrades and there’s an all-new S6 and SQ8. We will launch then in April, except for the S8 which will be here in quarter three. The SQ7 and Q7 get upgrades in the second quarter this year.”
Mr Ticehurst said the RS portfolio would be fully refreshed.
“The RS models had a period in 2019 where we weren’t building any,” he said. “The RS3 was out of production for us, the RS4 and RS5 were awaiting facelifts so we had a gap and our numbers in 2019 were down.
“Audi in Australia has traditionally been a top-five market by volume for RS around the world. We want to get back there.
“So the RS3 is coming back which has already delighted dealers who are already carrying orders.
“In the third quarter of the year we will launch all-new RS Q3 and RS Q3 Sportback, then facelifted TT RS, RS4, RS5 and RS6, followed by all-new S7 and RS Q8.
“If you’re a high-end performance buyer, come to Audi. It will be exceptional for those buyers.”
One of the most unexpected additions is the return of the diesel-engined SQ5. The move is at odds with the wind-down of diesel engines from Volkswagen Group, and also the cessation of diesels from Mercedes-Benz’s GLC range.
“It marks the return of the TDI in our range,” Mr Ticehurst said. “We launched it as a TDI and it’s back. We’ll keep the petrol car and we’ll run the two side by side.
“It will be interesting how the sales split. The petrol TFSI has done very well and sales were up in 2019 over 2018, and it’s holding its market share.”
Asked why the diesel is back, Mr Ticehurst said it was because “firstly we can, and secondly because there’s a lot of loyal customers out there”.
“We have heard of customers hanging onto their old TDI while waiting for a new one,” he said. “Now we can offer both. Whether that continues in the long term, let’s see, but for now we can do it.”
In light of the demise of diesels in Mercedes-Benz’s GLC range, Mr Ticehurst said it made Audi “unique in the premium market”.
“No-one in our segment can offer both engines,” he said. “They are each distinctive vehicles and they each have specific customers. If you live and work in the inner city, then it’s likely you’re better off with the petrol. If you are in the country, the diesel may suit you better.
“The 255kW/700Nm diesel has a 0-100km/h time of 5.1 seconds so it is slightly quicker than the petrol. We’re happy it’s back.”
The SQ5 diesel is planned to be launched around the middle of the year, though Mr Ticehurst said he was awaiting confirmation of the timing.
“It has a 48-volt mild-hybrid system and the fuel efficiency advantages that come with that,” he said.
The RS3 will be a welcome addition to the Audi range in Australia when it appears after ending local sales in December 2018.
Also welcome back is the R8 which returns to the market after a year with a fresh design and the choice between rear-drive and quattro drivetrain for the coupe and Spyder.
The 2020 year ends with the launch of the E-Tron and E-Tron Sportback, the first all-electric Audis to hit the Australian market.
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