Ever since four-door coupes became a dime a dozen, the European auto industry has been looking for a new niche, and for much of the past year or so, it seemed that the next big thing would be “small premium.” Inspired by the MINI, European automakers from Alfa to Audi have been trying to get consumers to spend big money on tiny, plush cars. But with Audi’s A1 starting at €15,800 ($20,873), it seems that even the efficiency-happy Germans aren’t willing to pay the price of entry for this new niche. Audi built capacity for 100k A1s at its Brussels plant, but since introducing the car in August, Audi has sold only 20k of the pricey subcompacts. And yes, the slow sales do seem to be tied to the exorbitant pricetags.
”Audi is simply asking too much money for a small premium car,” Metzler Bank auto analyst Juergen Pieper told Automobilwoche. He said Mini could charge high prices for its models because the brand has a cult status.
Some German dealers believe Audi has priced the A1 far too high for the the young target group at which it’s aimed. ”For them it is simply too expensive” a German Audi dealer told Automobilwoche.
The A1 is enjoying considerable success: The company stands by the estimate made at the time of the car’s launch that around 50,000 units will be built by the end of 2010 and 30,000 of them delivered to customers.