By on August 21, 2006

audi.jpg While GM and Ford continue their slow-motion fall from grace, Audi’s headed in the other direction. The German automaker’s U.S. sales are up, moving towards record levels. The company has a raft of new vehicles on dealers’ lots and more models on their way– from mid-market entry level models to the new TT roadster to the R8 supercar. Audi’s interiors are still the industry standard for design, fit and finish. They’re modifying their distribution system to increase customer choice and reduce dealer inventories. So is all well with Audi?  Yes and no.

Continuing on the yes side, Audi is poised to introduce a range of diesel powered vehicles into the U.S. market. The move comes just in time to meet pent-up demand for high mileage vehicles capable of exploiting federal “clean diesel” regulations, and may include a headline grabbing, brand-burnishing, diesel-powered sports car (the TT). At the same time, Audi has the fuel-efficient engines it needs to stay in the hunt for sales of luxury sports cars, hatchbacks, wagons and sedans.

Audi may also have discovered the “next big thing:” mid and full size hatchbacks. The American market has moved from SUV’s (with true off-road capabilities) to CUV’s (cars masquerading as SUV’s). The jump from CUV to hatchback is a logical progression (foreshadowed by the now discontinued Audi Allroad). Whether by luck or design, Audi’s ready. For model year ’09 / ’10, every model in Audi’s lineup will have a hatchback version, including their biggest model, the A8. Audi’s bread and butter A4 will be available as a sedan, wagon and hatchback. So what could go wrong?

Although Audi is well past the “sudden unintended acceleration” PR disaster that threw the company’s U.S. sales into reverse during the 80’s, reliability is the marque’s new bugaboo. While sister VW’s recent quality problems are well known, Audi owners have also been plagued with their unfair share of mechanical ailments, often without satisfactory resolution at the dealer level.

The problem is reflected by Audi’s dismal performance in JD Powers’ reliability surveys. As a direct result of these issues, Audis suffer frightening depreciation; negatively affecting leasing rates and new car sales. It’s a problem that must be sorted at both the factory gates and on the sharp end– the sooner, the better.

Meanwhile, Audi faces some important branding questions. For example, when three Audis recently received the Insurance Institute’s highest crash test rating, the company advertised the fact on TV. Since when is Audi Volvo? In fact, what is an Audi? While Ingolstadt makes some sporty cars, BWM still have that spin spun. Quality? Lexus. Prestige? Mercedes. Bargain? Infiniti. Bargain barge? Cadillac. Quirky? Acura. When you’re trying to make your move in the highly competitive luxury car market, you need to stand for something.

For years, Audi’s Quattro four wheel-drive system has been the industry leader. Audi has added the world’s slickest paddle shift/automatic transmission (DSG) to the equation. They also possess one of the best engines: a dependable and punchy four cylinder 2.0-liter turbo. If you combine Quattro, DSG and the 2.0T, you create an incredibly resourceful machine. The car can tackle severe weather conditions with confidence, deliver an exhilarating sporting experience on dry roads and waft with automatic ease in traffic. All this and entirely reasonable gas mileage.

Instead of publicly proclaiming their vague, boastful and indefensible “Never Follow” mantra, Audi should be touting themselves as master of the “practical sports sedan.” While the two-seat TT has carved a nice little niche for itself, blessing the brand with metrosexual glamour, and the R8 looks to be a terrific halo car, the company’s fortunes surely lie within its core competency: sure-footed sporting automobiles.

More specifically, Audi should concentrate on building and importing the “shooting brake” (a.k.a. sportback) concept car introduced at the Tokyo Motor Show. If Audi equipped the sportback with DSG, a 230hp version of the 2.0T powerplant (or a diesel) and Quattro four wheel-drive, they’d have America’s most versatile and practical sports car. With marginal restraint (so to speak), the sportback could generate significant U.S. profits.

Instead, Audi’s unleashed the Q7: a late-to-market, aesthetically-challenged, gas-guzzling SUV. What’s more, even though U.S. SUV sales are tanking (including arch rival Porsche Cayenne), Audi’s committed to expanding their SUV line to include the slightly smaller Q5 and smaller still Q3 SUV. The move will win few converts, dilute the brand’s message (such as it is) and distract them from their main mission.

Audi has some terrific products. But the way the company has used its tools does not bode well for their future. Audi doesn’t seem to understand its current strengths, or know how to carve-out a path to greater sales and profitability that takes advantage of those strengths. Like Detroit, Audi needs to do a little soul-searching and renew its focus on its “real” identity: fun-to-drive four-wheel drive sedans.   

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139 Comments on “Audi: Losing the Plot?...”


  • avatar
    imageWIS

    Where do you get your info?

    “For model year ’09 / ’10, every model in Audi’s lineup will have a hatchback version, including their biggest model, the A8.”

    They aren’t going to make any variations of the A8, save for the Long and Short wheelbase versions. Also, Audi currently has a car that is almost everything you are looking for: the A3. It uses a DSG (sorry, ‘S-Tronic’) gearbox, is a sports back and uses the 2.0T engine, but with 200 instead of 230 (although for a bout $650 you can get an APR chip and up the power by at least 40 horses).

    Jon.

  • avatar
    adehus

    “Quality? Lexus. Prestige? Mercedes. Bargain? Infiniti. Bargain barge? Cadillac. Quirky? Acura”

    Style? Audi.

    Don’t you think that has a lot to do with their current success? They seduce from the showroom floor. Mercedes & Cadillac are stodgy, BMWs are.. well, bizarre, and the Japanese luxo marques all look vaguely constipated.

    Take out a lease on an Audi that doesn’t outlast the warranty, and you’ve got a risk-free way of emphatically announcing to the world that you’re not a CPA.

    I do agree, though, that the SUV introductions seem to be a serious misstep. And as for the safety angle- remember that VW is pushing it as well… perhaps their marketers know something we don’t?

  • avatar
    bfg9k

    Quirky? Acura.

    I do believe that Saab has a monopoly on the ‘quirky’ adjective in the automotive press.

  • avatar
    gakoenig

    Audi’s quality problem is short term; the sort of folks who put a lot of stock in J.D. Power ratings do so because they are in the market for a vehicle and they care only about the latest version of those ratings. As long as Audi avoids a vehicular fiasco (Mercedes E Class) that drives home the statistics, they can nip the quality issues in the bud.

    In the long term though, Audi’s dealer network is going to be their biggest barrier to growth. While Mercedes, BMW and Lexus have built out substantial networks of luxurious, super sized, on-brand dealerships, Audi’s facilities are still evolved from the old school car lot with a sales shack. The econo car connections extend to the attitudes of the people inside the spruced up buildings as well; when I test drove an A3 last year, I received the dreaded post-test-drive full court sales press; “How can I get you into this car TODAY?” The service area was dingy to boot; where my BMW dealership gives me a plasma TV, free drinks and a fast net connection, Audi provides a sofa and ads for Bosch wiper blades and PermaPlate paint proection.

    Right now, Audi is a fallout brand. That isn’t to say that they have not played their cards extremely well (which they have) but the brand’s recent success has more to do with the Mercedes value/quality problems and the aesthetic reign of terror that is Chris Bangle at BMW. The A8 is a nice car, but is it as nice as the new S Class? No. Would you really take Audi’s 2.0T motor over the silky smooth BMW I6 with the same power? No. Even the DSG transmission that everyone raves about is going away; the tech is from BorgWarner (they call it “DualTronic” if you want to Google) and the VW Group’s exclusive rights to that transmission go away at the end of this year.

    BMW is reeling in Bangle and beginning to get the sheet metal back to being sexy. Mercedes is getting their ego deflated and bringing back the old school Teutonic engineering that made them THE premier vehicle brand. Lexus continues to do what Lexus does really well. Audi needs to come up with a strategy for getting a chair when the music stops.

    Good article!

  • avatar
    jrk392

    best looking cars on the road; minus that awful Q7 thing

  • avatar
    Claude Dickson

    My information is based on advance reports from various sources. Hatchback versions are, according to the best available info, going to be available on all these cars. Now whether any of them get to the US is a different matter. But if there have been no “official announcements” from Audi.

    I was not referring to the current 2.0T which is only available with FWD. There is a 230hp version of this engine which will be offered with quattro for the upcoming TT (not at introduction, but later) and probably the A3 and A4 as well. As you probably know, the engine choices for the TT at introduction will be the same as the A3: 2.0T FWD and 3.2 liter 6 cylinder w/quattro. The engines we could see are a 170 hp turbodiesel, the aforementioned 230hp 4 cylinder, a 3.6 liter 6 cylinder producing 300 hp and the 2.5 liter turbo 4 banger producing 350 hp.

  • avatar
    imageWIS

    You can get the 2.0T A3 with Quattro in Europe, which is what I was writing about. Maybe I should have only thought of Stateside offerings. But, I’m sure they will offer Quattro in the 2.0T A3 in the US eventually. Also, the EU-only S3 will use the same 2.0T (well, slight diff turbo and other mods), but it will make 263 horses. You sure you didn’t mistype something regarding this? :

    “a 3.6 liter 6 cylinder producing 300 hp and the 2.5 liter turbo 4 banger producing 350 hp”

    I mean I really don’t see Audi using an I4 engine with 350 hp being placed higher in output than their V6 offering. Are you sure that the 2.5 liter isn’t a turbo or twin-turbo V6 (a-la 2.7T)?

    Jon.

  • avatar
    Matthew Potena

    “While Mercedes, BMW and Lexus have built out substantial networks of luxurious, super sized, on-brand dealerships, Audi’s facilities are still evolved from the old school car lot with a sales shack.”

    That is not true at the Audi dealer near me. They have built a modern stylish dealership that is as attractive as any other luxury import’s dealership (beautiful glass and metal building with light colored wood flooring and a coffe bar). From what I am told by a former Audi salesman, all the dealers are being “asked” to upgrade their facilities in order to compete with the BMW and Benz palaces.

  • avatar
    Jay Shoemaker

    My wife isn’t into cars, she is into prestige. When I ask her what kind of car she wants, it always starts with the brand, not whether it has 2 or 4 doors or a particular color. Brands like Bentley, while admired, are too pretentious for everyday. Brands like Mercedes and BMW are the sweet spot.

    Three weeks ago I bought her an Audi A4 3.2 and she hasn’t driven it yet. When I asked her why, she told me the car was beneath her. Before you all start dumping on my wife’s self confidence issues, I wonder if she isn’t onto something. Those of you old enough to recall, Audi’s were introduced to the USA as cut rate Mercedes, similar cars at 1/2-2/3 of the price and this worked for quite a while.

    Audi’s problem is that their image began in one place and hasn’t graduated along with its pricing. Audi is now every bit as expensive as Mercedes and BMW, but they are still perceived as the brand to get when you cannot afford the other German brands.

  • avatar
    Speedster356

    The Audi Q7, the VW Tuareg and the Porsche Cayenne are sort of half brothers.
    I have seen the Q7 and it is not that bad. The difference in the money is such that would make me choose the Porsche, but VW and Audi may offer better and cheaper service in Europe.

    Regarding the late entry of Audi and VW in the SUV market, the reason is simple…
    Europe!!! The Europeans are used to paying too much for gas. So, the SUV market is looking good in Europe. More and more people buy SUVs lately. The SUV craze is hitting Europe as we speak…

  • avatar
    Frank Williams

    Jay, if your wife doesn’t want the A3, can I have it? I promise to give it a good home and take it out to play every day.

  • avatar
    Hutton

    Jay,
    In my neck of the woods, Audi (and also Volvo and Saab) have always been the cars that you bought when you could afford a BMW or Mercedes, but didn’t want to look pretentious (which, I guess, makes them even more pretentious). BMW’s aren’t even that prestigeous. If I throw a rock out my window right now, I’d be almost guarunteed to hit a 3-series.

  • avatar
    adehus

    Jay- I never would have thought of Audi as having pedigree problems… is this some sort of generation gap issue? In my mind, for 30 somethings, Audi is the marque that says you’re on your way to ‘making it’ without also saying you’re stodgy (Mercedes, Caddy, Japanese brands) or, well, a prick (BMW).

  • avatar
    Claude Dickson

    Jon:

    1) The S3 will not be offered in the US because it requires 93 octane fuel which is not available everywhere in the US. I doubt the US will ever see a S3 until there is a new model A3: the new 3.6 liter 6 cylinder is said not to fit in the current A3.

    2) All indications are that the 2.0T @200 hp will only be offerred in FWD in the US. The 230 hp version of this engine will have quattro and will be offerred in the US at some time in the future. My hope is for MY 2009, but I’ve heard no rumors of an MY introduction date.

    3) You could be right about the 350 hp engine. Audi supposedly just gave the green light to develop this engine and little is presently known about it other than displacement, turbo charging and horse power. The decision on whether this engine will be offerred in the US has not been made. You guys in Europe see lots of goodies that never make it to the States.

  • avatar
    Jay Shoemaker

    Yes, I am saying that the Audi has a pedigree problem. Could stem from the fact that they are mostly sold by VW dealers. More to the point, my issue is that Audi’s have become pricey without a concomitant rise in their brand image or resale. The last point is the most poignant- I have been spanked more often trading Audi’s than BMW or Mercedes (although don’t get me started on the depreciation issues with V-12 AMG cars).

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Audis, because of their “quattro” thingy, all have the stance of front-wheel drivers.

    Even the W12 A8 visually telegraphs that the front wheels are driven.

    In that stratosphere, having the same proportions as an Accord will never fly.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    What is the deal with Jay’s wife, and why isn’t that a topic all its own?

  • avatar
    Eljuwag

    Did I read diesels for Audi in the US? That would be one of the greatest move in US car industry. Being a european living in the US, I know how effective the Audi’s TDI engines are. US will love them: great mileage, low to no noise, a lot of torque, everything to make a driver satisfied! Audi diesels range from 110HP to 200+ and are a must. Actually, Audi in Europe sells more than 50% of their cars with diesels, raising up to 98% sales in countries like Spain and France. Claude: do you have any idea when Audi is going to introduce it in the US?

    Audi in Europe is a very prestiguous brand, same as Mercedes and BMW. They do not face the potentially pedigree problem Jay is referring to. People are really into it, resale in often more interesting than all other brands.

    One quick word on SUV in Europe: SUV suffer from a environment-not friendly image that are going to kill them on the long haul. Besides very expensive gas costs and often poor gas mileage are not helping SUV to invest the market. There is a current fashion effect though, but all specialists expect it to flop in the next couple of years: basically too expensive.

  • avatar
    imageWIS

    Jonny,

    The reason Audi’s have the longer front overhangs than BMW’s and Mercedes is that the engine is placed in front of the wheels. It has nothing to do with FWD or Quattro; just look at BMW: you can get a 3-Series with xDrive, but do the dimensions change? Does the car change its front overhang? No. The same goes with the Audi’s. AWD is not correlated with engine stance and vice-versa.

    The new generation A4 (B8) will have its engine sitting 4 inches further back than now which will place it behind the front wheels, which will not only help the F/R weight distribution, but will also help the car look like its Germanic-competition brethren.

    Jon.

  • avatar
    gbh

    adehus,

    ‘Movin’ on up?’ Perhaps late 20/early 30-somethings.

    Those of us pushing 40 a little harder remember the 1970s. Audis in the US were junk. Especially in the early-mid 70’s.

    100 LS, anyone?

    Then came the eighties. With the Quattro Coupe, and 5000, they were nice to drive, good looking, roomy, efficient. Nice interiors.

    Oh yeah, and after about 60k miles, they were junk too. Overheating, lousy sub components, scary parts prices unless you could figure out the VW part that was being used. Then came the cretins who couldn’t figure out which pedal did what and blamed it on the car. (Oh yeah, we had a 5000S. When it ran it was great.)

    Don’t get me wrong. If someone were to give me a lease on any one of several Audis, I’d be happy to throw it in the stable. As long as the lease lasted only as long as the warranty.

    With few exceptions, Audis also have resale value that has put a couple of the former flagship V8 four-door sedans in my local self-serve junkyard. Without any body damage. It will be another 8 years before S-class Benzs of the same age and price point find themselves in the pick-n-pull.

    To my mind, Audi says “I make too much to be seen in a VW, but I don’t want to be flashy in a BMW”.

  • avatar
    imageWIS

    Claude,

    I live in the US, not Europe, but I do spend quite a bit of time in Argentina every year, so I tend to look at the EU offerings, since South America tends to get similar cars / trims / engines /options.

    Guess I’m lucky, where I live all the premium gas sold in stations is 93 octane.

    Jon.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Jon,

    No, it’s the fact that A4s without Quattro are…. FWD vehicles. They are all based on the damn Golf, engineered from the git-go to be Front-wheel driven rides.

    Which is cool, I don’t care that much — however, they look like Toyotas.

    BMWs and Mercedes have the dignified stance of a proper rear-wheel driven vehicle.

    Subtle, but we all see it.

  • avatar
    davidg

    My wife is an anti-BMW, anti-Mercedes person that doesn’t like the snob aspects of those brands but never wanted to be mundane and showy in a used porsche. Instead, we went with the 04 Audi A4 Cabriolet 1.8T with sport wheels silver with gray leather… it was the best vehicle that we’ve ever owned. Only holding it for a year (we bought it 6 months used at $35 versus the $40k sticker and sold it for $33 only 13 months later (a sad day but a good one as we traded it for a V50 b/c of the pending arrival of our daughter).

    We couldn’t have been happier. Didnt see many on the road, it always stole a glance from many but never announced its arrival nor were we trying to announce our arrival… just that putting the top down and driving it in the hills north of Atlanta was like being on vacation.

    With the 1.8T (now upgraded to the 2.0T), we used to get 37 MPG on the freeway but unlike our Volvo, it had a large gas tank and we’d only have to fill up every three wks at the most.

    After one shot at the Audi, I can’t wait to get another one… We’re Ford lifers (both our father’s and grandfather’s work/worked for them) so we’re partial to Volvo and others but even when the Dad’s rode it in, they fully understood why the A4 was a dream car that didnt say it was a dream car.

    I couldn’t give the car higher marks… Would love to do an A4 or A6 when the kid accessories decrease.

    Not a fan of the Q7 but I’ll also look at the Q5 when it comes out and see how it stacks up versus Lincoln’s MKX (have to love an A-plan along with a well priced vehicle).

  • avatar
    imageWIS

    Sorry to disappoint you, but 2005.5 and onward A4’s and A6’s are based on an in-house platform and are not based on the golf (they never were, the A4 / a6 used to be based on the Passat, which is a better made car than the Golf, due to its higher price point). I mention this in passing, but the Bentley Continental GT / Flying Spur is based on the VW Phaeton…does that make the GT a bad car with an un-British stance?

    Like I said, Audi is rectifying the design issue, along with giving Quattro a more RWD basis to it (latest numbers I heard for the B8 are 40/60 F/R Quattro split, with variable sport mode split a possibility). Either way, if you think Audi’s look anywhere remotely close to Toyota’s…I, well I have no idea how to respond to that. Although, I will say one thing for Audi’s, they aren’t as ugly as modern day BMW’s (and neither is Mercedes, luckily).

    Jon.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    David G,

    37 MPG in a 3700lbs. convertible?

    Highly dubious.

    I know you are going to argue and protest, but there is no way in the world unless the car fell off a cliff every so often.

  • avatar
    adehus

    gbh-

    That’s why I suggested there may be a generation gap here… and that Audi is looked upon (by the young’uns) as an ‘alternative’ upscale import. I don’t disagree that it’s the natural step up from a VW, but I don’t think that’s necessarily thought of as a bad thing by the younger set (well, reliability issues excepted.)

    Johnny L-

    ‘Dignified’… I shudder!

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Jon, I am talking about proportions only here.

    The front overhang on most Audis is over a foot long, while the wheel arch is practically touching the front door cut — that telegraphs FWD from over a mile away.

    RWD cars tend to have long, elegant (or phallic if we are going to honest) fenders that announce exactly what the vehicle is and what it does.

    Audis have the same proportions as Toyotas and Hondas.

    And the passat is also a front-driver so my argument stands.

    I never said Audis were bad, I just said their proportions scream “FWD” and that may be one reason why Jay’s wife won’t drive hers.

    As far as the Bentely GT goes… it looks like it would be very useful for annexing the Rhineland.

  • avatar
    Claude Dickson

    Eljuwag:

    No date has been given for the introduction of any Audi diesels in the US. But we do know two things:

    1) clean diesel fuel will be readily available in the US by the end of this year. With this diesel fuel, diesel engines can pass federal and Calif emissions. This means that you could have a diesel option as early as MY2008, but my money would be on MY2009 unless gas prices really jump up. But there are no reports of a specific time line for introducing diesel engine options in the US. Your guess is a good as mine. We also do not know how far along Audi is with US/Calif emissions certification for a diesel engine.

    2) one would think that Audi isn’t racing its R10 diesel racing car in the US LeMans series for nothing.

  • avatar
    dean

    Jay Shoemaker: you seem to suffer from a surfeit of excess cash. I could help you with that.

    I quite like Audi designs, inside and out. If it wasn’t so damn expensive I would have bought an A4 Avant. In my opinion, it is the best looking wagon out there. I just couldn’t justify the extra $10k over the Forester I wound up with (neither could the bank, for that matter).

  • avatar
    Hutton

    Jonny,
    Jay said his wife isn’t into cars (she’s into prestige)… so I doubt that she cares about a car’s driveline, or the design concessions that it mandates. Most people aren’t even aware of which wheels push or pull their cars.

    P.S. I’d be interested to hear Mrs. Shoemaker ranking of brands that she considers to be most desirable.

    P.P.S. If I had a significant other who actually declared a luxury car I gave to her to be “beneath” her, I wouldn’t even have time to wonder where my life took a wrong turn, I’d be to busy killing myself. Or her.

  • avatar
    ktm

    Johnny, Jay plainly said why his wife won’t drive it. Stop making excuses for her, that’s his job.

    Very, very few people equate overhand dimensions with drive wheel configuration. They either like the way the car looks or don’t. Most American’s are ignorant about Audi. They basically say that an Audi is an expensive VW. I guess the same logic applies to Lexus, Infiniti, and Acura, yet these same people believe that these cars are ‘different’.

    As someone correctly stated, Audi is considered a premium brand in Europe. I truly wish Audi’s had a better reputation here simply for resale value. I would love to get another Audi (owned a B5 S4), but the resale values scare me. They are as every bit reliable as BMW and Mercedes, but people can’t seem to get past the whole VW connection.

    By the way, Audi employs two AWD systems in their cars: Torsen and Haldex. If the perspective buyers know that a larger front overhang screams FWD, then these same people should know the differences in the AWD systems.

  • avatar
    tms1999

    Audi is perceived close to what it is: overpriced Volkswagen. Same platforms, same engines, no distinct features. Especially with the recent VW attack on Audi’s market with (this very dumb) phaeton.

    What’s the difference between a GTI/Jetta/Passat and an A3/A4? subtle engine variations, but a very common shared base. Q7? Touared? Cayenne? same mold. EOS? TT? Same difference.

    As a prestige brand, in EU Audi is just perceived as a quality VW, below Mercedes and BMW (and priced accordingly)

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    KTM,

    You are somehow completely missing my point. Of course “most people” do not know that different whees are driven. That is not my point.

    My point is that proportionally, Audis have the same proportions as Toyotas, while (some) Lexuses look like Mercedes and BMWs.

    Big Audis look like… big Toyotas.

    The proportions are wrong.

  • avatar
    imageWIS

    tms1999,

    Did you read what I posted? Because you are letting your perceptions and assumptions pass as facts, and while you are entitled to you’re own opinions, you aren’t entitled to your own facts.

    The fact is that the A4 was never based on the Golf / Jetta platform and that the Golf / Jetta platform was never based on the Passat platform and vice-versa. Fact is that Audi has the best interior quality / tactility of any of the 3 ‘premium’ German brands, which completely kills your theory that Audi is an overpriced VW and that BMW and MB are inherently better. Fact: Audi uses better components for its cars vs. VW, the suspension is better, and uses higher quality components; the sheet metal is made out of better materials, as is the paint quality.

    I have no clue where you got this assumption that in EU Audi is considered lower than BMW and MB, especially since Audi outsold BMW last year in EU. Oh and when you say they are priced accordingly you are completely talking out of, well you get it.

    Jon.

  • avatar
    ktm

    “The front overhang on most Audis is over a foot long, while the wheel arch is practically touching the front door cut — that telegraphs FWD from over a mile away.

    RWD cars tend to have long, elegant (or phallic if we are going to honest) fenders that announce exactly what the vehicle is and what it does. ”

    If it was not your point, then don’t use it as an argument. Saying proportionally they are similar to Honda’s and Toyota’s (which I know you said) is different than waxing pointlessly about front overhangs telegraphing FWD “from over a mile away”.

    Proportionally speaking, who cars if the car has a large overhang? If they style works, great.

    “Big Audis look like… big Toyotas.”

    Are you saying that an A8 looks like an Avalon, an A6 like a Camry and an A4 a Corolla?

    What proporations? Width, wheelbase, height, or are you referring to stylistic proporations such as front and rear overhangs, etc. (the latter seems the case)?

    Also, very few people are going to look at an Audi A8 and say, hmmmm, proportionally, those overhangs are similar to that of a Toyota Avalon.

    Disclaimer: If my comments are coming off as confrontational, ascerbic, etc. then I apologize. I am on my third week of 70+ hours at work.

  • avatar
    Jesse

    Hatchback??
    2.0 Four-cylinder turbo???

    Sounds like something a quirky Swedish brand has been doing for almost 30 years now…

  • avatar
    imageWIS

    I have to concur, any person that won’t drive an A3 3.2Q which has the worlds most advanced automatic gearbox (the same type as used in the world’s most expensive car, BTW), the world’s best AWD system and the world’s class-leading interior quality because ‘its beneath them’ has some serious snob / perception issues and I take the stand that in fact it’s the other way around, its she that’s beneath the car. The car is too good for her.

    A person who does not even drive the car, but merely looks at the badge and dismiss it out of hand doesn’t deserve an A3, much less anything better. But hey if she wants a lower quality interior, electronic reliability issues or snobbier dealer treatment (personal experience), she is welcome to buy a BMW or MB.

    Jon.

  • avatar
    imageWIS

    “Also, very few people are going to look at an Audi A8 and say, hmmmm, proportionally, those overhangs are similar to that of a Toyota Avalon.”

    LOL. Yeah, an A8L W12 looks just like an ES350…

    Jon.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    ktm,

    How do I signify banging my head against the desk to you?

    Audis look like front wheel drive cars.

    Front wheel drive cars are cheaper (for the last 30 years) than rear wheel drive cars (Germans and Sports cars).

    Cars that give off hints of cheapness — even if they are not — are perceived to be cheap.

    The over hang is part of it — but the part you really seem to be ignoring is the lack of fender width. Me telling you — cars without it look generic.

    Exceptions abound, etc.

  • avatar
    Jay Shoemaker

    Actually, you folks are reading my post incorrectly. I already tried the A3 on my wife last year and she hated it, but she actually drove it. The car I got for her three weeks ago is an A4 with the 3.2 engine and no DSG transmission.

    Now here is the really bad part: The MSRP on the Audi, fully loaded was around $47K; the dealer sold it to me at invoice, which was around $43K. I leased it for two years and the interest rate was less than 1%. Despite all these great deals, the monthly lease cost was still more than my $63K BMW 530 xi wagon because the monthly depreciation on the Audi is so enormous.

  • avatar
    Frank Williams

    Jay, I’ll still give it a good home…

  • avatar
    imageWIS

    Oh, I can’t read….

    Jon.

  • avatar
    Terry Parkhurst

    It would seem that if Audi could not only come back, but prosper, maybe any auto company can. Back in October ,1989, I remember attending a ride-and-drive at Pacific Raceways in Kent WA that Audi staged; in part, to demonstrate things new to their cars, such as antilock brakes. I rained buckets but it was a good way to find out how competent Audis were. Bobby Unser Jr. was in attendance and he gave journos and guests rides around the track.
    The head of Audi in America then was a burly ex-Marine named Richard Mugg (no kidding). After the event, he gave interviews, one on one, at a hotel in downtown Seattle.
    “We’re back,” he assured me while underscoring that neither “60 Minutes” nor the NHTSA had ever found anything wrong with their cars – even after tearing down the transmissions.
    I was a skeptic. How, I thought could they do it? Audi benefits from a short (media) attention span in the American public. By 1997, the next time Audi had a major ride-and-drive in Seattle, that stuff involving the Audi 5000 in the Eighties was ancient history.
    A new generation grew up and embraced Audi and well they should. What GM should do is find out who engineering – literally and figuratively – that turn-around – guys such as retired Audi PR chief Joe Bennett – and hire them as consultants. My hunch is they have some valuable things to say about how to overcome negative publicity and deal with the media – electronic, TM (traditional media).

  • avatar
    Frank Williams

    imageWIS, he got her an A-FOUR, not an A3. The DSG isn’t available on the A4.

    Jay, I think I’m the one responsible for this mixup. I misread your post and was the first to mention the A3. Mea culpa.

    (And I’ll still give it a good home, even if it isn’t an A3 3.2.)

  • avatar
    ktm

    “Audis look like front wheel drive cars.

    Front wheel drive cars are cheaper (for the last 30 years) than rear wheel drive cars (Germans and Sports cars).

    Cars that give off hints of cheapness — even if they are not — are perceived to be cheap. “

    This is how I am reading your comments:

    You are saying that Audi’s look like FWD cars (because of the overhang/body proportions, which are similar to those of Honda and Toyota) and saying that such design cues imply cheapness because historically, FWD vehicles were cheaper than their RWD counterparts. You are implying that potential buyers of Audis will equate the their styling with other FWD cars and thus feel that the Audi is a ‘cheaper’ brand.

    Am I correct?

    If so, then we are back to square one.

    The following is predicated on my understanding of your above comment.

    I am saying that a majority of potential buyers are not equating Audi’s style with FWD cars, and thus perceiving them as a lesser brand. Audi incorporated the Haldex system in the new RS4 and gave it a rear-wheel drive bias. Again, if your potential buyers are apt enough to pick up on the subtle design similarities between Audi and other ‘lesser’ front wheel drive manufacturers, then they will also be aware of Audi’s other offerings.

    Edit: Audi’s problem is not with FWD (look at Lexus’s offering with the ES or the entire Acura line) but rather the stigma here in the US that they are nothing more than an expensive VW. People remember the old Bugs, Rabbits/Golf (growing up we owned a 1979 Rabbit diesel and a 1982 Vanagon), Jettas, etc. and can not shake their image of VW.

  • avatar
    imageWIS

    Frank,

    The A4 6-speed tip is still a good transmission (it’s a version of the tranny that Porsche uses in its cars). I still say the car is too good for her (with that attitude).

    Jon.

  • avatar
    imageWIS

    Jonny,

    I’m not sure what part of this we can’t seem to see eye-to-eye on. The overhang of the car is ONLY relative to the location of the engine in the engine bay. A) If the engine is behind the wheel you will get a lesser overhang and more sheet metal between the rear part of the front wheel arch and the front door. B) Whereas, when the engine is placed in front of the wheels you get more of an overhang, and the rear part of the wheel arch is a lot closer to the front door.

    In either case A or B, you can have the car have a RWD, FWD, or AWD powerterrain. The new Mini, which is built by BMW is FWD, but has its engine placed behind the wheels, thus the front overhang is minimal, how do you explain that? Do you equate the mini with the Yaris Liftback?

    Jon.

  • avatar
    tms1999

    imageWIS,

    No, I did no read what you posted. I was making a comment on the article. Now, I’ll give you my platform mistake. A4 = passat. Golf = everything else. But still VAG has mixed and matched their (carefully evolved with time) platforms and spread them around all their model, regadless of brands. The fact is There’s no VW only or Audi only, everything is shared, was shared and will be shared:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volkswagen_A_platform
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volkswagen_B_platform

    Sure, the trim and interior material and sheetmetal is different in an audi. But same platform, same engine, same gearbox. VW, Skoda, SEAT, Audi. From Polo to Phaeton, same cars. Audi = VW + more money.

    Also, the fact that Audi outsold BMW is not exactly a mark of exclusivity. And yes, in Europe, Audi is more affordable than mercedes and BMW (they have cheaper base models, that why they sell more of them).

  • avatar

    Stylistically, Audis don’t do much for me. Among other things, the nose looks like the stylists were trying too hard. And a lot of Audis land in the Consumer Reports “used cars to avoid,” and even in “CR Bad Bets,” which is the bottom of the barrel, while none make it into “Reliable used cars” or “CR good bets.”

  • avatar
    imageWIS

    Um…

    B6:

    “Volkswagen’s Passat moved onto the A5 platform for its 6th generation, on the slightly enlarged PQ46 (the Golf/Jetta version is the PQ35). Instead, there are no vehicles with the Volkswagen badge that are true B6 cars.

    B6 platform cars:

    * Audi A4 (2000-present)

    The Audi A4 also is considered to have a B7 generation. However, this 7th generation of the car was really a revision of the B6 platform. Both’s internal nomenclature code is PL46.”

    Also, the suspension is different, as is the materials used and the link arms. And the trim is a quite more than ‘a bit better’, it’s better than the interior found on the 3 and the C.

    Also, with your reasoning the Veyron is basically a really fast VW Polo…

    Jon.

  • avatar
    Jay Shoemaker

    If I did lease an Audi A3 3.2 with DSG, the monthly cost would be even higher because in addition to Audi’s depreciation, there are no special interest rates on this vehicle.

    This is another issue Audi must address to play with BMW. If you can lease a 5 series wagon for less money than an Audi A3 3.2, then something is awry.

  • avatar
    imageWIS

    Jay,

    My Audi dealership told me if I get an A3 not to lease it, and I overheard them telling other customers this as well. I honestly don’t think anyone is going to lease an A3 when they see that the monthly payments cost more than if they were to finance the car. Obviously Audi is still rebuilding its reputation in the US, but give them a couple of years and you will see the depreciation issue become nonexistent.

    Jon.

  • avatar
    ktm

    Jay, that is exactly what the service manager and a couple sales associates at Audi Mission Viejo told me (they understand all too well). The precipitous depreciation makes leasing an Audi much more expensive than a similarly equipped BMW.

  • avatar
    imageWIS

    The best Audi to lease is the A4, due to the fact that it has the best depreciation of any Audi. The same can be said about the BMW 3-Series…

    Jon.

  • avatar
    adehus

    Oh, so it’s not an A3 that was rejected as unworthy of Ms. Shoemaker’s attentions, it was an A4.

    Of course… now it all makes sense…

    ?

  • avatar

    The Audis I have seen recently definitely outshine their German brethen in terms of fit and finish. That Audi black paint is a thing of beauty. As a life-long Porsche & VW fan, it took me a long time to figure out where Audi’s market was. The thing I remember them most for is the old Auto Union racers. When the original TT came out a LOT of people took a new look at Audi. Like most people I waited and wasn’t surprised to find out that while the thing looked like hot shit, the Cd was borderline dangerous. Maybe a serious commitment to building sports cars would do something to change their image. Hell, badge the sports models Auto Union and run commercials with clips of close to a 100 years of Auto Union Racing. If Porsche gets their way and takes control of VAG perhaps we’ll see Audi find some new purpose. Porsche had a half-good idea in the 914 teaming up with VW to offer a purpose built entry-level sportscar and they were pretty popular. VW’s brand image held them back though, so much so that in the US they wouldn’t let VW sell it. If they’d team up with a new Audi to engineer a co-badged TT successor they would have one fast mover on their hands. Price it under the Boxster and don’t put a flat engine in it and it’ll be different enough to leave the Porsche market alone.

  • avatar
    carguy

    This article is a bit similar to Robert’s “Is BMW losing it” piece a little while ago. Let’s face it, you could do a similar article about all brands – you could attack Mercedes for their quality problems and sinking brand status, you could also bring up BMWs reliability issues in the 70s and 80s or lament that Porsche is losing its sport focus.

    No brand is perfect and all have their ups and down. Audi is a well enough defined brand that has experienced significant growth over the past 10 years so I’m not quite sure what this pontification fest is all about.

  • avatar
    Jay Shoemaker

    I am not making this up: on my way home this evening, driving the A4 that my wife doesn’t like, both the memory seat feature failed as well as the cruise control.

  • avatar

    Although the discussion of proportion was interesting, I wanted to bring things back to the topic of Audi’s dealer network. Here in Northern Virginia, it’s a debacle. The “big dealer” here in Tyson’s Corner certainly has the right look–with a beautiful and stylish facility–but they too adhere to the ’50s school of full contact salesmanship. When I purchased my ’06 S4 last September, the salescritter and F&I felon tried TWICE to sneak $1300 onto the agreed upon price. That, plus a “we need to do a credit check even though you’re paying cash” routine and a mis-aligned car at delivery made me wonder about my choice of vehicle.

    Now, I won’t even bring my car in for the free oil changes, as I’ve heard stories of vengance from this particular dealership. So, I bring my car for $100 oil changes to a trusted shop, pray I never need warranty work, and mentally add that cost to my total ownership cost.

    A quality dealership experience would have made me an Audi buyer for life, as I’m very happy with the S4 otherwise. Audi will only play with the big boys when they can give a Lexus (or insert your favorite quality dealership provider here) like experience.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Grid:

    What did you say when they demanded the credit check?

    My Mom is well off enough that she can pay cash for cars. She was looking at an M45 and the guy wanted to run her credit, which isperfect. She said she was going to hand him a check. He said it was standard procedure. She told him that running a credit check would effect her credit.

    Long story short, she walked out.

    Not that should would have bought that car, but it upset her.

  • avatar
    ktm

    Jay, the stereo head unit in my old S4 failed and was replaced under warranty. I drive about 1 mile from the dealership after picking it up and the new head unit failed and took the navigation system with it.

    Still, it was the best car I have ever owned in terms of comfort and performance. I was willing to put up with the grief only because of the dealerships service department. It was in the shop 26 days in a 6 month period, but the dealership was bending over backwards to make me whole (the A6 and Allroad loaners certainly helped).

  • avatar
    Brian E

    So who has the worst dealers: VW or Audi? It’s an interesting sort of problem. Both VW and Audi’s sales have been increasing despite the dealers, not because of them.

    This would be a great opportunity for one of the domestics to step in. Saturn’s already doing it with Opel. Ford should replace the current Mercury badge-engineered lineup with its Europe-only cars. A Mercury Mondeo and rebadged Focus Cabriolet would be awesome.

  • avatar
    lzaffuto

    Styling? Blah. I used to like them, until they decided that the whole front end of the car must look like a grille. Now all it needs is a giant fishhook. VW has this affliction too. I would consider the Audi TT or the VW GTI but the first thing I’d have the dealership do is factor into the financing to have the paintshop paint the bumper bar in the middle of the two grilles to match body color.

  • avatar

    Jonny,
    When I asked them why I needed to fill out a credit app, the response was priceless. The sales “manager” said it was required by the Patriot Act. I told them it wasn’t. Apparently, either it’s not or they found some loophole for me.

    The sales clown was so obsessed with getting “5’s” that he spent more time with me on that subject than in getting the car aligned. So I gave him and the dealership the grades they deserved–1’s and 2’s–and asked AofA to have the dealership call me to address my concerns.

    The “apology” call from some higher up at the dealership was classic. That idiot said **I’d** made a mistake by not filling out the credit app which was, you guessed it, required by the Patriot Act. I laughed at him. Regarding the alignment, he said I could call them to make an appointment. After paying over $50K for the car, no additional offer to help.

    Funny thing is that dealership had been recently purchased by Roger Penske’s auto company. So now the Penske name brand is also tarnished with me. A little bit of dealer stupidity sure goes a long (and long lasting) way.

  • avatar
    DaveClark

    Audi has a serious problem with reliability, as any Audi service manager or warranty clerk would tell you in a moment of candor. Until that is resolved, why would anyone in their right mind consider one? The lack of decent resale, combined with premium MSRPs, make Audi one of the most costly vehicles to own. I like exclusivity that comes with price, but I’d rather be seen driving a Ferrari or Lambo.

    The Audi big mouth nose is polarizing as well, which doesn’t help w/resale either.

  • avatar
    imageWIS

    Jay:

    Everyone I personally know IRL that has an Audi and people I have talked to online (Audi forums) and in CC’s normally are insanely satisfied with their Audi purchases. I find it insanely convenient that all the sudden just now you had problems with the car.

    I could always mention something about BMW, that I know from personal experience if you’d like:

    I know someone with a 03’ 530i who has absolutely no problems with his car, yet every time he goes to the dealership to get his car serviced (regular maintenance) the service guys always tell him he is lucky to have the old gen and not the new 5-series, because apparently they are in the shop all the time.

    Jon.

  • avatar
    imageWIS

    Dave,

    “Audi has a serious problem with reliability, as any Audi service manager or warranty clerk would tell you in a moment of candor. Until that is resolved, why would anyone in their right mind consider one?”

    How many of them have you spoken to? Have you spoke to Audi owners? Past / long time / short time Audi owners? I’m trying to get a handle at exactly the sort of problems you are talking about, and how long ago they occurred.

    “The lack of decent resale, combined with premium MSRPs, make Audi one of the most costly vehicles to own.”

    What does that have to do with ‘cost to own’? Cost to own is ownership costs: warranty, maintenance, tires, gas, insurance, etc… Price and resale value is not related.

    “I like exclusivity that comes with price, but I’d rather be seen driving a Ferrari or Lambo.”

    You’re arguments make no sense. You can’t compare Ferrari’s and Lamborghini’s to Audi’s. You might as well compare a 4-seat Cessna to an F22 Raptor.

    “The Audi big mouth nose is polarizing as well, which doesn’t help w/resale either.”

    Alas I repeat myself: just because you don’t like the shield grill and the way it looks and think that it might degrade resale value it doesn’t make it so, and it’s not a fact, regardless if you think your opinion is fact.

    Jon.

  • avatar
    adehus

    I have 70k miles on my 2000 TT, and mechanically it’s been bulletproof. Electrical system’s a bit flakey, though the problems mostly add up to minor irritations (ie false CELs, windows that won’t roll up the first time).

    Have to admit, though, that the (disturbingly low) resale value is a part of the reason I still own it. Oh, well… there are worse places to be stuck.

  • avatar
    ktm

    imageWIS, funny you should mention BMW’s reliability. I owned a 2002 325Ci for 6 weeks. In 6 weeks it was in the shop 4 times, with the last trip as result of the ECU dying. This was on a Friday evening (at 5:30).

    The service manager at Irvine BMW told me that the they would give me a loaner for Saturday, but that I would have to pay for the loaner on Sunday (mind you I am under the factory warranty). They did not have an ECU in stock and my car would not be fixed until the following Monday/Tuesday. While he was writing me up, I overheard him telling an associate that my car was the 7th in that month for a bad ECU. I eventually argued my point and got the free loaner, but the experience turned me off of BMW for a while. Long story short, I dumped the car at a $3k loss and moved on.

    Flash forward a couple years and I run into a service manager at Audi Mission Viejo who used to work for Irvine BMW. By his own admission he admitted that BMW had quite a few vehicles roll into the shop each month with faulty ECUs and electronics.

    Regarding the polarizing design comment, a polarizing design is a good thing. People either love it or hate it and it leads to sales. The last thing you want is a design which people feel ambivalent about.

    BMW’s Banglerized designs have polarized the BMW community, much like Audi’s fishmouth grill. I personally like the new Audis, but it did take about 1 year to grow on me.

    Oh, and imageWIS, cost to own does include the original price and resale. The difference between the two is what you pay to own the car. Say Car #1 and Car #2 both cost the same (and are driven the same, blah blah blah), but Car #2 depreciates more than Car #1, Car #2 is more costly to own (over the long run) than Car #1.

    You will realize this when you go to trade it in or sell it. The owner of Car #1 will get more money for his vehicle, thus offsetting his overall expenses.

  • avatar
    wstansfi

    As someone who grew up in the northeast watching BMW’s and MB’s slide off the road as soon as the snow started to fall, I have long aspired to an Audi. The quatro all-wheel drive would combine the surety of larger vehicles with the comfort and precision drive of a car.

    Recently, I had the opportunity to test the A3, and the dealer experience was horrendous. (Leith Audi, NC) Salesman number one wouldn’t let me try my car-seat in the back seat, and salesman number two demonstrated the car to me for most of the test drive, and then pulled me off the highway on the first exit. We never made it past 60mph, and the only corner I got to hit was the off-ramp. Then, after driving a manual, I said I might be interested in the DSG (having heard rave reviews about it here on TTAC). Instead of offering to let me drive the DSG, the guy has me follow him into the dealership to give me the numbers! I drove an A3 2.0T with sport suspension and Bose radio, and he was trying to sell me an A3 with DSG, and standard radio and suspension!

    The clincher came when he showed me the residual value of car stickered at 32K. JS you are absolutely right about that depreciation. That was when I was glad I hadn’t enjoyed the test drive, or the dealer experience.

    BTW, having driven the TSX, TL, and G35 – I would label Acura less quirky and more on a par with Infiniti for value.

    btw – JL – I thought you drove an all-wheel drive car…

  • avatar
    imageWIS

    KTM:

    In all honesty, why would someone buy an Audi (or BMW or Mercedes for that matter?) seriously, you are screwed when it the warranty is over. Except for the A3 which costs more to lease than to buy, I would only lease an Audi / BMW / MB. Thus I only consider day-in, day-out costs part of the ownership experience.

    I went to the ‘dedicated’ Audi dealership (Champion Audi, they have 2 locations and one of them also sells Porsche) the other day to take a look at an A3, since my mom is thinking to buy one. The guy spent over 1 ½ hours with me, and we test drove both a 2.0T and a 3.2. He was exceedingly patient and let me take a look at everything I wanted to and answered all my questions, including questions regarding my own car and other non new-car related questions.

    In all honesty he was better than the salesperson I bought my car from at the other location (my car sold itself). It all depends on who you get I guess.

    The only Bangle design I truly like all around is the Z4. The new 3 is fine on the outside except for the grill and the interior, which both completely turned me off to the car (especially since the E46, was IMHO spectacular). The new 3 Coupe completely fixes the grill fiasco and makes the exterior beautiful again (vs. the 3 sedan), but the interior is unchanged and still a disaster.

    Where is the BMW jet-fighter like cockpit I fell in love with? Where is the drivers car that optimized the driver and damned everything else (including electronics) to secondary status to ensure that the driving experience was intact?

    Jon.

  • avatar
    dimitris

    Long-time Audi fan (ever since growing up in europe) and US-based A4 owner for >8 years.

    The main reason I bought the A4 in the first place was that (back in 98 anyway) Audi in the US was quite obscure. I just did not want to deal with the stereotype associated with BMWs (did someone say prick earlier?) so I went for the somewhat stealthy choice of a 1.8T quattro.

    Unfortunately, Audi is moving in the opposite direction on this axis, up-blinging with each revision, culminating with the design crime against humanity they call the Audi Grille. Yuckity yuck.

    They only have one car that would make me overlook The Snout; RS4. Unfortunately, its unreasonable thirst would mean I would be sending additional funds to Ahmadinejad every time I blipped the gas pedal, and thoughts like that tend to put a damper on excitement (I don’t work for an oil company). And if I can’t enjoy the 420 ponies, what are they good for?

  • avatar
    bunny

    Regarding: Very, very few people equate overhand dimensions with drive wheel configuration. They either like the way the car looks or don’t. Most American’s are ignorant about Audi. They basically say that an Audi is an expensive VW. I guess the same logic applies to Lexus, Infiniti, and Acura, yet these same people believe that these cars are ‘different’.

    Actually, no.

    Only Lexus ES350 has a counterpart in Toyota Camry. IS/GS/LS are not based on any Toyota.

    For Audi? A3/A4/A6/A8 all have their VW siblings. Same mechanical layout, same crappy long term quality. A fresh skin work can only get you so far.

  • avatar
    BigBucksT

    Audi has a beautiful new dealership in Mission Viejo, CA. I don’t know what kind of shanty dealerships you guys have, but we have nice ones in California. Every luxury brand around me has a nice dealership. The only two luxury brands with cruddy dealerships would be Cadillac and Acura. Those need to be updated asap.

    BTW, have you guys seen the new Land Rover/Jaguar dealership off the 5 freeway? WOW OH WOW that looks nice.

  • avatar
    jacob

    bunny, that’s not entirely true. The latest generation A4 and A6 do not share the platform with VW (except perhaps for the engines, big deal). While A8 and Phaeton might share their platform. Phaeton really is an Audi in a VW skin and not the other way around. The only Audi that was based on a car that was designed to be VW is A3.

  • avatar
    Uncle Rico

    My local Audi dealership shares showroom space with Lincoln Mercury. This dealership is sandwiched in between Concord BMW…a palace, and Lexus of Concord, another spare-no-expense place. I can’t imagine anyone visiting all three and deciding they want to get an A8 or A6 4.2 and have it serviced there.

  • avatar

    Here in the Deep South, the Audi/VW dealer is on the outskirts of town. For every A3 there are eight VW Beetles.

    I believe they had an A8…once.

  • avatar
    jerry weber

    When I had a business and could deduct them I had two audis. The porsche mercedes audi, pontiac, isuzu, dealer serviced it. The first oil change in 1985 was $125.00. Needless to say, I didn’t go back. Audi has the problem of being no better then Japanese quality iron but a lot more expensive to buy and maintain. Without a deduction to run one, I’m out. It seems like only yesterday 30K got you something pretty nice in the auto world, now it’s forty and audi is right there collecting. How far can any brand go with mass sales when the price is stratospheric. Is their product better then say a Nissan maxima or toyota avalon? The new maxima has a very distinctive styling and some interesting technology like CV transmissions, I would think it’s A6 size and cost about $32K. toyota prices competitive.

  • avatar
    imageWIS

    Bunny,

    You really should read all the comments before posting. While Audi’s inevitably have VW parts in them, as of late they have been trying to distance themselves from VW, especially by designing their own chassis. The A4, A6 and A8 all have non-VW chassis. The VW Phaeton is based on the A8, as is the Bentley Continental GT. All Lamborghinis have a lot of Audi parts (and Audi’s use Lambo V10 engines). And please don’t kid yourself, All Lexus use Toyota parts. The engine in the ES350 is the same base as the one used in the IS350 (both are a 3.5 liter V6, hint, hint) and the automatic trannys are almost all the same.

    Regardless, the people who come down on Audi because they share VW parts aren’t seeing the alternatives: Mercedes with more and more Chrysler integration (read: crappy American design and build quality), Jaguar’s that are really just Fords with cheap leather (seriously, the X-Type costs as much as the A4, yet its based on a Ford Mondeo!); thus the only thing left is BMW, which is Audi’s main target.

    I am still waiting on people to tell me the specific problems that make Audi so bad (and please don’t tell me about the coil pack issue, that has been resolved and Audi customers got theirs fixed before VW’s customers).

    Jon.

  • avatar
    imageWIS

    Jerry,

    Audi is slowly doing away with the CVT and replacing it with a much better transmission: the DSG (S-Tronic).

    Jon.

  • avatar
    ZCD2.7T

    I find it ironic to read through a thread with so much mis- and dis-information and outright un-truths (in the comments section, at least) on a website called “The Truth About Cars”. But I digress……

    I thought I’d interject this one point: According to JD Power’s newly revised, more comprehensive Initial Quality Survey, Audi ranks AHEAD of both MB and BMW (though still below the industry average):

    http://www.usatoday.com/money/autos/2006-06-07-iqs_x.htm

    My experiences with our 3 Audis have left me LOVING the driving experience, design and technology, while at the same time only being willing to own one while covered by some kind of warranty.

    My 1994 Acura Legend was bullet-proof for 165K miles, but it never made me long to drive it, nor look back at it as I walked away. The Audis do. Good trade-off? For me, yes.

    YMMV.

  • avatar
    voiceprint1

    vw group has allways had quality problems, but compaired to other cars they are wonderful, when working. The real problem is finding an independant mechanic, seriously these guys can’t be trusted period. And the guys at the dealerships are scary robots with vague answers who don’t want to give you a loaner car.

  • avatar
    imageWIS

    VW as a brand (not VW AG as a whole) is one thing, but Audi is a whole different story and my dealership has no problem giving me a loaner car or using their in-house driver service to shuttle me whenever I need to go somewhere. And by shuttle service I mean a driver with a new A6 that takes me (and only me) directly to my desired destination. Then when the car is ready I get picked up and brought back to the dealer.

    Jon.

  • avatar
    DaveClark

    ImageWIS:

    Of course resale is part of total ownership cost, as the difference between what you paid new and sold used is DEPRECIATION. Very real, just ask Audi owners.

    In my Ferrari/Lambo example, I have heard of owners who have sold their exotics at within 10% of what they paid new. Ignoring opportunity cost on a big MSRP for a moment, an Audi that depreciates 50% in 3 years can end up costing more than the Ferrari/Lambo lucky bastards.

    Consumer Reports will bear out my remarks regarding reliability. Ignore JD Powers –they were the same outfit to brag up the Pontiac Aztek. In other words, they’re whores.

    Alas, if a styling cue (i.e. the Audi snoz) repels a good segment of buyers, then demand is affected. Less demand can mean less resale. Many, many writers have weighed in on this, and it isn’t praise. It’s not just MY opinion.

    One more thing: You’re = You are, not “your” as in your arguments make no sense.

  • avatar
    imageWIS

    Dave, you should try reading what people posted AFTER you read my reply. I did mention that since purchasing a German car is a bad idea (ANY German car), that context in which I was speaking in was regarding leasing. Thus on a lease the costs are the day-in, day-out costs of the car (I posted a quick list which I will not retype here). Mercedes AMG models sink faster than the Titanic when it comes to resale value, so what? I don’t see you criticizing them.

    Regarding the design, you are right: writers are never wrong and Audi is making better than ever sales (not to mention finally starting to make headway in the US after the 80’s fiasco). As to CR, have you read their recommendations regarding 2006 Mercedes and BMW models? They aren’t too stellar. The 3 cars (surprise, surprise) which are most often recommended from the 3 ‘Premium’ German car companies are the C-Class, A4, and 3-Series.

    I feel that a person who corrects me regarding my spelling, yet has no reading comprehension is like the blind leading the blind.

    Jon.

  • avatar
    Claude Dickson

    To bring the discussion back to its orgins, sometimes a single model defines a manufacturer. I would submit that the 3 Series established and continues to establish BMW as the gold standard for sports sedans and that it is more important for BMW’s reputation to maintain the 3 Series as the preeminent sports sedan in its class than for any other series it makes.

    Similarly, the A4 could establish Audi as the maker of the most versatile and balanced small sports sedan. Perhaps not the ultimate sports sedan, but the one you would want to drive every day under a wide variety of conditions and for a multitude of purposes. With the technology Audi has on the shelf today, they could make a strong case as the preeminent maker of versatile and balanced sports sedans. All they have to do is package their cars appropriate and have an ad campaign that highlights this. Offer an A4 in the US with quattro, 2.0T and DSG along with Audi’s interior design and I can’t think of a better sports sedan for everyday driving. Instead Audi frustrates consumers with the packaging of its cars. For example, why can’t I get quattro on the A3 together with Audi’s wonderful 2.0T???

    This is what I think Audi should try to be instead of a BMW/Mercedes clone. In that vein, mechanical reliability is more important to Audi than perhaps to BMW because cars you depend on to drive every day should not be spending their time in the shop getting fixed. Mechanical reliability is also a way to distance Audi from VW. While most Audi models are not re-badged VWs, poor reliability feeds into the notion that Audis are nothing more than expensive VWs. Service when the car breaks down should also be a step up from VW. I doublt any of us could confuse a Lexus dealership for a Toyota dealership. The same should be true of Audi.

    I think the comments here show that many people who consider themselves to be car people have reservations about Audi. Some of the reservations may not be based on fact or on the past, but perceptions can hinder Audi’s progress unless addressed. In order to compete with the likes of BMW and Mercedes, Audi needs its own defined image, it needs to address mechanical reliability or the perception of its mechanical reliabilty and the depreciation on its models has to improve. Without these changes, the only way Audi will continue to advance is if the guys in front of Audi, like BMW, stumble in the market place. Audi should not be waiting/counting on the other guys to screw up in order for it to succeed further in the market place. Audi’s potential is there, but so too are the signs of a company that has lost its way.

  • avatar
    crackity jones

    Thanks for writing about Audi. Too bad this article is overstated.

    Audi is not “losing the plot.” The article itself says they’re enjoying record sales.

    The mention of “unintended acceleration” is not applicable to anything the writer is saying. It’s there to create an “edgy” piece. It’s the biggest cliche to mention this in an Audi article without a direct reason.

    The hatchback is not close to being “the next big thing” in American autos. Hatchbacks are not all that popular here. Just ask BMW. Show me data that this attitude is changing before announcing it as fact. The idea that Audi is going to taint its flagship A8 with a hatchback version is hard to believe.

    The doom you’re trying to create I just didn’t see played out in your piece.

    Here’s the USA Today version: Audi is a lifestyle brand. They make pretty cars. They’re doing pretty well in the US. Their updated A4 should really help them get more performance-oriented.

    They could do a lot better marketing themselves here, sure. They could be more reliable. But then, BMW saw its 3-series removed from “recommended” by Consumer Reports, but not the A4.

    BMW could also do a lot better designing some less polarizing cars.

    “BMW, off the plot?”

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    All you people who have “problems” with your Audis should do your own maintenance. I bought a new 2000 A4 Avant Quattro six years ago and have yet to go to a dealer despite the “free oil changes” and all that crap. Bought an OBDII reader ( $398, reads through my wife’s Palm Pilot), bought the factory shop manual, and I laugh at all the people who say, “Oh, you can’t work on your own car, it’s too complicated.” Good air in, bad air out. Gas, spark, fire, power. The car has four cylinders, four spark plugs, one turbocharger. What’s the big deal? Oh, and I chipped it, too. Puts out about 230 hp. Voids the warranty.

    What warranty? Who cares? Shut up and drive.

  • avatar
    ktm

    Stephan, you should know that maintenance is not the same as repairs. Fluid changes are a bit simpler than, say, turbo swaps or electrical problems. Why should I PAY money for a part and waste a weekend when it is covered by a warranty?

    I do the maintenance on all of our cars. I do the repairs on my wifes Xterra and my 240z. The FX35 will go to the shop if it needs repairs.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    Sorry, maintenance to me means not only maintain, but fix and repair. I wasn’t clear enough. I have no problem doing a turbo swap or electrical repair. (Am I buehlchitting? Well, I built an airplane that recently flew quite nicely from the U. S. to Australia, so those are my current credentials.)

    As I said in my original post, I have never taken my Audi to a dealer, even though I suppose the oil and brake pads would have been free. Big deal.

    My now-97-year-old-mother, when she was young a pioneering woman homebuilding contractor on Long Island, once told me, “If you want it done right, do it yourself.” Hardly an original thought, but since she said it, it took with me.

  • avatar
    ktm

    Again, why should you have to pay for the part and then spend the time replacing the part, when the dealership will do it for free? It’s one thing to fix out items once out of warranty, its another to fix them while the car is covered.

    Now if you enjoy the challenge that is another thing.

    I live my life by the adage “if you want something done right, do it yourself”. However, there is also something to be said for making those who make a mistake accountable for their actions.

    If everyone thought and did like you do, manufacturers would have no incentive to better their products.

    Ah well, to each their own.

    See ya on the road.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    You got it. I enjoy the challenge. Particularly in a culture that can’t change the belt on a broken clothes dryer or fix a leaky faucet. We have regressed so incredibly far from what our fathers and grandfathers routinely did, and I strive to retain what little of that I’m able to keep.

    I can fix, weld, solder, wrench, plumb, carpent and whack my thumb with a hammer knowing that too many people don’t even know which end of a hammer to hold.

  • avatar
    orbitmonkey

    I have been wanting to respond to this ridiculous article and the ridiculous comments within it.

    First of all, its really clear what Audi is about. It’s about impeccable exterior and interior styling, mated to a the greatest blend of performance, spirited driving soul and safety, ever offered to a consumer. There simply is nobody else out there offering these parameters in one package across their entire fleet.

    As far as comparing Audi’s “snoz” front facia styling to Chris Bangle’s fiasco, that’s ridiculous. While *initial* press reviews questioned the front grill, its by and large become an endearing change and is NEVER discussed by the auto press anymore. Conversely, Bangle and his disasterous changes to BMW are discussed and quiped about in articles in the auto press till this very day! Please, don’t insult Audi by comparing them to the Bangle BMW.

    Lastly I’ll tell you something else most of you just don’t seem to be getting. To those of you who claim to think of Audi as an overpriced VW and don’t take it seriously… Maybe you’ll take it seriously when I dust you in my 2007 RS4, which Road and Track recently faced off against the Porsche Carerra C4S, and which just about unanimously has been regarded in the press as the class leader for luxury performance compact sports sedan.

    Let me know when BMW, MB, Lexus, and whomever else you want to include can deliver a car that has the style, the dripping sex appeal, the impeccable track handling, the ridiculously monsterous power of the 8200-redlining 4.2 V8, the simply splendidly sounding whine and roar of the engine, and the fadeless brakes of the mighty RS4.

    Wake up people. Audi is what BMW and Mercedes constantly have nightmares about.

    Sure, an M5 is quicker, but it sounds like crap, it has a horribly useless driver computer system, a uselessly over engineered tweakable suspension, and it looks like crap. AMG? Oh wow, we all know AMG can make incredible engines. The 6.2 V8 coming out is monsterous. But can AMG actually make sports car that can, you know, like handle well, and provide steering feedback?

    Audi is alive and well. They are a class leader. They are still the underdogs around this part of the world in some part due to crappy reporting by 60 minutes, and in other parts due to their own crappy marketing.

    There’s a reason why Audis are referred to as the Thinking Man’s BMW.

    See you later (in my rear view mirror)

  • avatar
    phattie

    What’s up with all these ‘death-watch-like’ articles lately? GM, Ford, Toyota, Audi, who’s next? Honda? Yea, all manufacteurs have issues here and there.

  • avatar
    orbitmonkey

    I agree its ridiculous. i think its the same tactics used by the media to get viewers. lame. try some real substantive writing instead.

  • avatar
    Frank Williams

    “What’s up with all these ‘death-watch-like’ articles lately? GM, Ford, Toyota, Audi, who’s next? Honda? Yea, all manufacteurs have issues here and there.”

    “I agree its ridiculous. i think its the same tactics used by the media to get viewers. lame. try some real substantive writing instead.”

    It totally depends on what you’re looking for. To borrow a hackneyed phrase, the truth hurts. If you want sunshine, lollypops, rainbows, and a Pollyanna-ish view that all is well in the automotive world, go read Motor Trend or Road & Track. If you really want a peek at the man behind the curtain, read TTAC.

  • avatar
    Claude Dickson

    “First of all, its really clear what Audi is about. It’s about impeccable exterior and interior styling, mated to a the greatest blend of performance, spirited driving soul and safety, ever offered to a consumer. There simply is nobody else out there offering these parameters in one package across their entire fleet.”

    You get all that from Audi’s “Streets of Tomorrow” ad campaign or the ads for the highest rating for crash safety????

  • avatar
    adehus

    Frank-

    Well, yes and no. I mean, sure, it’s always nice to see an article that analyzes the goings on of a maker without any sort of candy coating, but it really does seem as though this article has been skewed towards the bleaker end of things for dramatic effect. Truth is, there isn’t a maker out there that doesn’t have strategic weaknesses.

    And let’s be honest- the truth in these matters is difficult to define. Speaking so authoritatively about a maker implies intimate knowledge of their inner workings. I know that I don’t know a damned thing about it, I’m not convinced that the author does either.

    Does Audi have any programs in place to address quality issues? Is crashworthiness a marketable asset? Are sportbacks really desired in the US market? The author blithely drops his pronouncements on these matters, without any accountability for the wisdom (or lack of) held within.

    My point being, there’s a point at which the ‘truth’ being sold is merely the truth of the authors opinions. And that’s fine when the subject is an automobile- the author has experienced it in it’s totality, and knows it as well as anyone else who might have a chance to drive it. But when the subject is something as amorphous, complex, and almost unknowable as a manufacturer… well, the author had better give us good reason to think he has any sort of understanding of the big picture.

    But then that sort of thing isn’t so fun to read… so let’s just title it ‘The Sky is Falling!!!’ and get it over with, right?

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    You guys are being a little harsh on Claude. His article didn’t say that Audi was dying, but rather questioning their focus. Even the Audi defenders who have posted have difficulty putting a finger on what it is about Audi they are defending:
    · Interior fit and finish?
    · A big, beautiful nose?
    · Safety?
    · AWD?
    · “the greatest blend of performance, spirited driving soul and safety, ever offered”?

    BMW builds great sport sedans, Lexus builds reliable luxury cars, and Mercedes offers the prestige of engineering excellence. Audi isn’t going to be mentioned with these big three (or sell anywhere near the big 3 in the US) until they clarify the meaning of their brand.

  • avatar
    crackity jones

    Maybe if the article was tighter, it would be necessary to defend Audi from actual issues.

    By and large, astute readers have merely taken issue with the author’s oveblown lead-in. Not to mention the preposterous–and unsubstantiated–idea that that A8 will get a hatch?

    These typos on the resume make it hard to take Claude’s ideas seriously.

    Audi, we repeat, is not in trouble. I was also not convinced through the author’s rhetoric that it has even lost focus. As has been stated by a lot of us, every car company has its issues. It appears to be Audi’s week to get the paddle at Truth About Cars.

    Though, you’ll need to dig up some better dirt on Audi to make it look like you have the answers–at least to these readers who have replied.

  • avatar
    bunny

    Stephan:

    We admire your ability to build a plane. However, none of the car makers would regard you as the typical customer. People are into different trades. You cannot expect Bill Gates or George Bush to “maintain” their own cars. For that reason, I drive a Honda now. When I reach my 30s in the near future, I will be looking at an IS. As for an A4? No thanks.

  • avatar
    crackity jones

    “If you want sunshine, lollypops, rainbows, and a Pollyanna-ish view that all is well in the automotive world, go read Motor Trend or Road & Track.”

    “You get all that from Audi’s “Streets of Tomorrow” ad campaign or the ads for the highest rating for crash safety????

    There’s a nice cover for shoddy reporting, fellas. Your industry detractors look like a prophet when you guys turn on your readership for questioning your ideas and having some of their own.

    We’re excited you’re here. We’re happy you’re writing about Audi. But I’ve always felt Farago reserved his critiques for carmakers and not his fans.

  • avatar
    o_fizzle

    About the Audi prestige thing:

    I’m 23 and I actually remember when Audi used to be the poor man’s BMW/Mercedes. But, in my opinion, this has changed through the years. I now see Audi as being on the same level as other German marques. I would still go for the BMW if I had to choose between the three (I gotta have RWD), but Audis are undeniably the sexiest inside and out. I also think Audi trumps Mercedes in just about every category.

    I have a very image-conscious cousin (28) shopping for a luxury sedan right now, and she has no problem checking out Audis alongside the Beemers.

    Unlike younger people, I think older people (35+) have retained the image of Audi as being less prestigious.

  • avatar
    diablo69

    About “overhangs” and FWD … some here claim that the overhang represents a FWD look and it cheapens the brand as it is compared to a Toyota. If this argument is true then the ugly bulky and whindy rear end of the 5 and 7 series BMWs are just that and they are similar to Hyundais, thus cheapening the BMW brand. My short conclusion is that this argument is senseless (to be diplomatic) and simply a personal opinion as Audi is the leading sport luxury brand of Germans and for that matter all of Europe and China.

    Audi admittedly has a brand problem in the US (only). This is so because the American consumer is different than all others. It is a consumer that relies heavily on a brands’ marketing and advertising (it is gullible), thanks in no small part to Hollywood and oh my godly celebrity power endorsements which most Americans will follow. Pam Anderson says to jump off the bridge and most Americans will (BTW, I am a American too, and live in America).

    As far as the Audi dealers… the assertion that Audi’s dealerships were old school may have been true years ago, but I’ve also been to my two closest dealerships and both have modern glass house-type stores with Flat panel TVs and coffee/snack bars (as if that makes a better dealership???) but mentioned here for clarification.

    Audi’s are for those that can’t afford BMW and MB??? clearly this is an uninformed opinion of a close-minded car fan who clearly does not like Audi’s.

    If an A8 W12 looks anything like an ES than you need stronger prescription eyeglasses. There is NOTHING out there that looks like this Audi cruising machine.

    How does the Q7/5/3 in anyway depart from Audi’s brand focus. It is providing a different type of car with the same sporty/luxury feel of it’s other brand mates. The focus is still performance, technology, style, design, quality interior, etc, etc, etc. The fact that people dislike SUVs doesn’t make this car a bad design or in any way depart from Audi’s brand focus.

    Some writer’s wife would not drive an Audi because it’s beneath her??? that is fine with me, she belongs with the BMW crowd. She fits right in with all those as someone here called them, “pricks”. Well said.

    The Audi “thing” people in the US have is just that a “US thing”. If anything Audi is at fault for not using the advertising machine just as other wannabe brands such as Lexus has so successfully done.

  • avatar
    imageWIS

    Every person who stated an incorrect opinion, which was dispelled by a fact, was still insisted upon by another person who either did not read what was previously posted or simply refused to believe the truth. Perception and reality are two different things. Some people however, cannot seem to separate the two.

    Jon.

  • avatar
    orbitmonkey

    I’ve been wanting to reply once again because I can’t believe the BS that is being bandies about.

    To the guy who asked if I got my description of Audi from the Streets of Tomorrow Ad Campaign.

    Maybe you didn’t read everything I wrote, or you’d know I got that from the combined 13K miles I’ve put on my S4 and RS4. Get it?

    As far as the BMW looking better because it has less overhang, I dispute that as a matter of taste. I don’t think it makes a car look better, it makes a car IMO look more boy racer. I love the way the RS4 looks.

    Yes Audi will be able to move the engine back a bit in the next B8 model, it will have less overhang, but it won’t look like a BMW, although to be honest I forget these days what they look like since I am usually looking at them in my rear view mirrors, and it’s just hard to tell from that perspective.

    Lastly, the idea that this is some kind of hard hitting piece of auto journalism, don’t make me puke. This hit piece on Audi is something you’d see from the NY Post on a political issue. You ask a question meant to get attention, and then don’t actually prove the basis for asking it to begin with.

    There has been quite a bit of Audi hating here in the US as another poster pointed out.

    Let me tell you something. On my recent vacation I had a German family come up to me and oogle my RS4.

    Put down the bottle of hatorade, and actually get into an RS4, S4 and then tell me you believe all this garbage.

  • avatar

    I like Audis. In fact, I love Audis. Well, the interiors. You simply cannot buy a better car interior, at any price. Cool, sophisticated, ergonomic, tactile– it's everything a car interior should be. It's enough to make you say, you know what? I don't really care what the rest of the car's like. I want to stay right here… forever. Is there a bed in this thing? As for the rest of machine, meh. Oh yeah, the S4 goes like Hell and my God does it make a sound. But the steering is lighter than a dust mite's carry on. And the depreciation! The day you drive a new Audi off the dealer lot is the day you lose more money than most of the traders who swan dove onto Wall Street (proper) during the Big Crash. Don't forget that new snout. It reminds of a certain Subaru SUV's front end, only the Hustler version.

    Would I have one? Sure, if you gave it to me. Would I spend my [theoretical] money on one? Sure, if I couldn't buy a used Porsche anything. Which kinda brings us back to this article. What should Audi be selling? I agree with the author: practical sports cars. I'm even willing to restrict the marque to hatchbacks. I reckon Audi doesn't have the mojo to be a full line marque. Which is just as well. Who wants another full-line luxury car brand.? I say go for quirk. Celebrate quirk! Saab thrived on it. English cars were sold in America because of it. Do one crazy ass thing better than anyone else and convince everyone in America they should be driving one.

    Focus. If this site sounds like a broken record– GM's in trouble, Ford's in trouble, BMW's could be in trouble, Audi could be in trouble, Toyota could be in trouble, Porsche could be in trouble– well, that's because they are. Or, you know, will be. You show me one car brand that's got its shit together. Acompany with focus. That makes a small range of highly focused products that are better in what they do well than anyone else on planet earth, and maybe I'll write about that. But don't tell me that company is Audi. Cause it ain't.

  • avatar
    doublechili

    This was not a negative piece. Yeah, after rattling off several positives the author gets to the safety marketing angle and the TT and SUVs and how that all maybe dilutes the mark. The article’s reasonable summation is that “Audi needs to do a little soul-searching and renew its focus on its “real” identity: fun-to-drive four-wheel drive sedans.” Ripping the author and countering that your four wheel drive sedan is fun to drive is oxymoronic.

    I live in the Northeast, land of snow, rain, hills and potholes. SUVs are stupid. I must have a sedan. I must have AWD. I must have performance. I must have a manual transmission. There’s very little out there that meets all those needs. Most manufacturers apparently don’t want me as a customer. I think first of Audi and Subaru because they make the cars I want. They must want me as a customer. There are a lot of me’s out there. Audi should strive to be my company. If they try to be all things to all people they’ll make cars for nobody. And they’ll lose me and all the other me’s. That’s negative?

  • avatar
    orbitmonkey

    “Oh yeah, the S4 goes like Hell and my God does it make a sound. But the steering is lighter than a dust mite’s carry on. And the depreciation! The day you drive a new Audi off the dealer lot is the day you lose more money than most of the traders who swan dove onto Wall Street (proper) during the Big Crash. Don’t forget that new snout. It reminds of a certain Subaru SUV’s front end, only the Hustler version.”

    Dude, people who buy these cars can afford them. We don’t care about depreciation, these are not investments, they are life enhancing objects. They are the sugar on top, nobody needs them. If you are going to buy a high powered gas guzzling V8 performance sedan like an S4 with these gas prices and then talk about depreciation, then I think you’re probably missing a major point.

    As far as the steering on the S4, you highly exagerate it. Especially with the new 60/40 torque split that is going to be across the board in all manual A4/S4 cars, and probably soon A6s.

    But that’s OK, because you danced around the RS4 again, which is a semi-exotic super car. Its a car that is making M5 owners trade their overbloated and souless cars in for the real deal. Its a car that is apparently the white elephant in the room here at TruthAboutAudi. Nobody wants to talk about this RS4. Nor does anyone here want to talk about the S6 or S8.. Or gee the R8.. Or how about the A5?

    For all the pontificating here, you all sure are barely knoweledgable about the marquee and what’s on tap.

    “You show me one car brand that’s got its shit together. Acompany with focus. That makes a small range of highly focused products that are better in what they do well than anyone else on planet earth, and maybe I’ll write about that. But don’t tell me that company is Audi. Cause it ain’t.”

    Way to beat downn that straw man. Nobody here said Audi is flawless. What we are saying is this article is stupid, for the half dozen reasons already listed. If the article is about that, then why write it. We all know no car company can ever measure to that standard. That is the law of the globalized world we live in today.

    And then this other guy double chill says:

    “There are a lot of me’s out there. Audi should strive to be my company. If they try to be all things to all people they’ll make cars for nobody. And they’ll lose me and all the other me’s. That’s negative?”

    Uhm, where have you been? Audi *constantly* emphasizes Quattro, which is geared towards north easterners like us. The only car I believe that has FWD as an option is the TT and A4 in this country. Quattro is standard on everything on up.

    Btw, to the guy above who claimed nobody would chose an A8 over an Sclass MB. WTF? Are you serious? The A8 has a legitimate sports package available that makes it worth of its place in the moveie Transporter 2. The suspension available, the grace of the car, how can you compare an S500 to this car? And throw in the S8 and good night Irene.

    This thread is littered with so many know it alls its hillarious. Let the Audi hating parade continue. Bla bla bla…

  • avatar
    Frank Williams

    Orbitmonkey: “The only car I believe that has FWD as an option is the TT and A4 in this country. Quattro is standard on everything on up.”

    “This thread is littered with so many know it alls its hillarious [sic]. Let the Audi hating parade continue. Bla bla bla… “

    Uh… at the risk of sounding like a “know it all,” the A6 comes with FWD or quattro in the V6 model. And the A3 with the 2.0 turbo is available ONLY with FWD.

  • avatar
    orbitmonkey2

    thanks for clearing up fwd in the a6. you’ll notice though I said “ibelieve”, I never stated it as fact.

    furthermore, the existence of fwd options on low end models does not change the fact that audi is synonymous with awd.

    which goes back to the crux of my point to thae other fellow. saying that audi needs to remind people who live in inclamate weather that they offer quattro is like saying apple needs to remind people looking for a portable music device that they sel something called ipod.

  • avatar
    DarkOneForce

    Audi’s “real soul” fun to drive AWD sedans ?!

    Don’t make me laught.

    First, the Ur Quattro was no sedan.

    Second, Audi managed to close the sales gap with MB/BMW everywhere else appart from the USA, thanks to wagons and hatchbacks. In the sedan department they still haven’t convinced many people.

    Third, the modern Audi resulted from the marriage of DKW and NSU under VW, both FWD players (that being the reason they were bought by VW since they desperately needed FWD know-how).
    AWD camed later, and Audi certaintly wasn’t the first in this field. Nevertheless their influence/importance cannot be underestimated.

    Forth, whatever the soul of Audi is, it still needs SUVs, albeit not as big as the Q7.

  • avatar
    crackity jones

    Auto sites — even good ones like TTAC — can live in the theoretical a bit too much. Some of the rankling TTAC comments are theoretically true in the ol’ vaccum, viewing the landscape of the auto industry as a big swap meet of stats and numbers vs. stats and numbers. (Depreciation on car A is greater than depreciation on car B, thus car A is superior. Car D has a new grille, which is larger than the grille on car C over there, and so is suspect.)

    As I’ve posited in previous posts, Audi is a lifestyle brand. They don’t measure up stat to stat and they don’t need to. The large volume of Audi’s business–IMO–is with professionals who aren’t die-hard car people like BMW owners. These people want a styish ride (which BMW fumbles), a youthful brand (which Merc doesn’t stand for) and enough German performance and handling to have fun with. Quattro is a nice differentiator while you’re driving off the lot, but again–car enthusiasts are not the world. (My A3 is FWD. I don’t care about this. I know, I must be INSANE!! Pull me out and beat me.)

    Audi can survive and thrive–as Lexus has (there’s a comparison to launch a thousand tirades)–by being the stylish non-Japanese lifestyle brand that offers a total package of performance, luxury, safety and German heritage. That is a single-minded premise, by the way. The total package.

    For this positioning to break open, reliability needs to improve, because that is one ingredient in this total package that is currently iffy.

    Bells and whistles are what we write about on car web sites, but the masses that fund these huge car brands, they’re buying on look and feel, fit and finish. Here, Audi excells.

    Yes, I’m bringing up the masses. But this article brought up, is Audi in trouble or will they lose focus. They have a mass strategy. On an enthusiast site, that may sound dull, but that’s the deal with Audi. That doesn’t exclude the RS4 and their sports lines, but they don’t need to even beat BMW here to succeed.

  • avatar
    adehus

    Crackity Jones-

    Very well said… the notion that the needs of hard core enthusiasts may not be Audi’s end-all target market (and that Audi can thrive as such) is something that has been largely ignored both in the article and in comments.

  • avatar
    DarkOneForce

    Audi the hole package.
    Well here in Europe Audi is seen as the all-rounder jack_of_all_traits_master_of_none, so they might fit the bill.

    Nevertheless, the youthfull market isn’t necesarly Audi’s turf. The 1 and 3 series, A,B and C klasse bring young people to BMW/MB too. And both BMW and MB are seen as stylish, and more prestigious.

  • avatar
    imageWIS

    Not in the US though. The 1er, A, and B-Class don’t exist in the US, thus Audi is the only German car Co. offering 2 cars to the ‘youth market’.

    Jon.

  • avatar
    imageWIS

    There is a good reason for FWD: the U-Shape that Audi uses in its dimensions, which leads to the ‘overhang’ eliminates torque steer, both from FWD and AWD, thus the difference at least in a straight line regarding FWD and RWD is diminished.

    Jon.

  • avatar
    doublechili

    Orbit, you selectively quoted me and left out where I said Audi makes the cars I want. I’m no Audi hater. I used to have a ’91 200 Turbo Quattro and still have a ’95 S6, a couple of classic Audi sedans. That doesn’t mean I can’t agree with constructive criticism that Audi should stay focused on AWD sedans, hatches and wagons. I’m talking corporate decision-making here. How much money and resources do you think went into developing an SUV for the USA? Audi already made beautiful wagons and the Allroad, but they just had to jump on the SUV bandwagon. They’d have been better off putting those resources towards rectifying the reliability issues that hurt them with multitudes of potential buyers that consult Consumer Reports and JD Power.

  • avatar
    imageWIS

    I mention this in passing:

    “Demand for Audi’s new large Q7 crossover has been stronger than expected, according to trade publication Automotive News. Twelve inches longer than the Porsche Cayenne and Volkswagen Touareg, the Q7 was launched in a time when many consumers were moving away from large SUVs. But the German automaker sold 1,900 Q7s in the U.S. last month — 700 more than the company had expected. Audi product planner Filip Brabec told Auto News the Q7 has been the “highest pre-sold car that we have ever had.” Demand has also been strong in Europe. Audi is even considering increasing production to keep up with demand.”

    Jon.

  • avatar
    Claude Dickson

    If this were not an auto site, I’d be tempted to give a lesson on reading comprehension. Where is the Audi hate in this article??? For example, the first sentence in the last paragraph is “Audi has some terrific products.” Let’s go on, I stated that Audi is poised to introduce diesel engines and gave credit to Audi for perhaps coming with the next big thing (Yes, I know hatchbacks are not new. But timing is everything and Audi may be set to re-introduce mid and large size hatches when the US market is ready to buy them). Keep going and you will find mention of Audi as the industry leader in four wheel drive, DSG mentioned as the “world’s slickest” transmission, and Audi having one of the best engines around in its 2.0T. If this is hate, I can’t imagine what love is.

    But Audi, like any car manufacturer, is not perfect. High depreciation on their vehicles is a fact, and reliability remains a question mark for many people, not just JD Powers. You cannot wish these things away in your enthusiasm for Audi.

    I happen to like Audis, but I feel that I had to educate myself about Audi’s appeal and I shouldn’t have to work that hard to understand any car company’s product line. Putting aside the hardcore products like the “S” and “RS” models which do attempt to do battle with the “Ms, AMGs and Porsches of the world, the heart of their product line is attractive because of their balance of outstanding interior design, fine engines, transmission, and AWD (and perhaps other qualities, I’m not trying to be exhaustive here). Would I take an A4 of any variety (excluding S4 and RS4) over a BMW 330i? The answer is “No” from a purely driving pleasure perspective. But as an everyday sports sedan driven in a wide variety of conditions, the answer becomes “Yes”. Would I buy a new Audi? No, the depreciation is just too high. Would I buy a used Audi? Absolutely. High depreciation makes Audi an excellent choice in the used car market.

    Audi is doing very well right now and may continue to do so. But continuing to do well in the highly competitive car market is a challenge for any car company. Audi has to tools to do well. HOWEVER, I do question whether Audi packages and markets its cars to its best advantage. And I also question whether the failure, IMHO, to so package and market its cars, will cause problems for Audi in the future. This is modest criticism and the strong reaction by the Audi faithful to this article truly surprises me at TTAC. If you want to know what a harsh article is, read any article here on GM’s Deathwatch.

  • avatar
    adehus

    Claude-

    Your latest post convinced me to reread your article, and to some degree I think you’re right. It really wasn’t that harsh. I’d guess that part of the reaction comes from the title- It sets a tone that’s perhaps not exactly appropriate to the text.

    In all honesty, though, the issues you did have with Audi didn’t feel terribly well argued. Why is it wrong to promote safety? I don’t see why, and you really didn’t make an argument. Should Audi be cautious about fastbacks given their lackluster history in the US? Might have been worth it to reconcile that- everyone who reads the buff books knows hatchbacks are considered poison here. Also, I don’t see how you can feel that Audi doesn’t stand for something, as I suggested in several other posts.

    Overall, you just didn’t make the connection for me between the things that bother you, and *why* they would impact Audi negatively. Seems to me that one could just as easily argue that they’re refocusing to appeal to a larger cross section of the market. And that they’re already having some success in doing so.

    It wouldn’t particularly make me happy if Audi is diluting their brand to increase mass appeal, but then I don’t see why my opinion matters all that much. I wish, in the original article, you would have told us more about why yours should.

  • avatar
    orbitmonkey

    See. this is the type of thinly veiled Audi hating that I’m talking about:

    Here’s an example:

    “Putting aside the hardcore products like the “S” and “RS” models which do attempt to do battle with the “Ms, AMGs and Porsches of the world”

    **attempts**?? Note the condesending verbage? Attempts? How about handily achieves? AMG does not hold a candle to either RS or M cars, they are great at making *engines*, not verifiable sports cars.

    The RS doesn’t attempt anything, it whipes the floor with the currently available M3, has been out for 2+ years globaly and will have had a reign over BMW’s M3 for at least 3+ years by the time the new M3 arrives, and there’s no gaurantee that car will excede the RS4.

    Meanwhile the RS4 is putting up unnoficial lap times on the ‘Ring that is under 8 minutes, lower than the M5 with regular tires (granted).

    You might say I am nitpicking, I will tell you I see exactly this type of condeceding verbage all over the damn place, in magazines, on web sites, etc…

    And I just don’t get why you have a hard time getting the apeal of Audis. They look and feel fantastic, better than anything out there on the inside and as good as anything out there on the outside. Their paint is demonsterably better than any other luxury maker, even Porsche. They offer powerful cars with all weather performance. They are sophisticated and luxurious without screaming “ahole lawyer driving this car”.

    What is so hard to understand about this picture?

    About the quality, I will concede with you that they need to improve this, but then again there doesn’t seem to be many makers that are cearly consistent in this area, but that is no excuse for Audi.

    Now go test drive an RS4.. if you can find one. They are only making 2000 of them for the US before retiring the model and moving on to the next RS6. By that time though you’ll be able to drive on of the gazillion produced M cars.

  • avatar
    orbitmonkey

    “But as an everyday sports sedan driven in a wide variety of conditions, the answer becomes “Yes”. Would I buy a new Audi? No, the depreciation is just too high. Would I buy a used Audi? Absolutely. High depreciation makes Audi an excellent choice in the used car market.”

    It sounds then you know exactly what the apeal of the car is.

    I will grant you one thing, the new 335i is going to smack any A4 (including the S package, not to be confused with the S4). The A4 is a purpose built car, as is the 335i. Its not like Audi failed at anything here, they simply built a car for a different purpose.

    Then again, drop down to the 325i, and I’ll take the A4 any day. So its not a clear advantage for BMW, presuming you don’t need AWD.

  • avatar
    orbitmonkey

    “Your latest post convinced me to reread your article, and to some degree I think you’re right. It really wasn’t that harsh. I’d guess that part of the reaction comes from the title- It sets a tone that’s perhaps not exactly appropriate to the text.

    In all honesty, though, the issues you did have with Audi didn’t feel terribly well argued. Why is it wrong to promote safety? I don’t see why, and you really didn’t make an argument. Should Audi be cautious about fastbacks given their lackluster history in the US? Might have been worth it to reconcile that- everyone who reads the buff books knows hatchbacks are considered poison here. Also, I don’t see how you can feel that Audi doesn’t stand for something, as I suggested in several other posts.”

    I agree. Maybe you in particular were not full throttle hating, I probably was reacting to your title, your poorly reasoned and FUD spreading logic and some of the negative Audi comments.

    Bottom line is I just think you have a poorly laid out piece of reasoning, and I smell a bit of ignorance on your part when it comes to S4 and RS4. The fact that you say they “attempt” to compete with AMG and M5 really rubs Audi diehards the wrong way. We see this crap all the time.

    And btw, to the guy above who claimed that BMW owners are passionate car people who really know their cars.. OMG.. Hahahaha. Are you kidding?

    Where I live, in Westchester, NY, 75% of the people here own BMWs. Do you know why? Because they are mindless drones, idiotic lemmings. They don’t know jack about the car they are driving other than they think it is the automatic status symbol. Suggesting otherwise is pure fantasy.

    It is the other way around. It is Audi that is the Thinking Man’s BMW.. Sheesh..

  • avatar
    orbitmonkey

    Btw, even though you ruffled my feathers I like your blog. I think this is like reading a columnist in the Daily News who is hating on my Yankees. Gets us Yankees fans all nuts ;)

  • avatar
    FooledByMarketing

    “While Ingolstadt makes some sporty cars, BWM still have that spin spun. Quality? Lexus. Prestige? Mercedes. Bargain? Infiniti. Bargain barge? Cadillac. Quirky? Acura. When you’re trying to make your move in the highly competitive luxury car market, you need to stand for something.”

    Every one of these brands have performance, quality, prestige and quirkiness, to some degree. Maybe Audi is the “balanced and refined” brand. Audi gives you the best balance of engineering, performance, quality and prestige. For example, the S4 gives you AWD, a V8, 4 doors & a trunk and a luxury interior.

    “Instead, Audi’s unleashed the Q7: a late-to-market, aesthetically-challenged, gas-guzzling SUV. What’s more, even though U.S. SUV sales are tanking (including arch rival Porsche Cayenne), Audi’s committed to expanding their SUV line to include the slightly smaller Q5 and smaller still Q3 SUV. The move will win few converts, dilute the brand’s message (such as it is) and distract them from their main mission.”

    SUVs sales such as the X5, RX, 4Runner, etc. are not tanking. There is no reason to see why the Q7 will not succeed as well. The waiting lists for the Q7 show that it is doing just that.

    Cross-overs from Honda, Mazda, Toyota, etc. are also selling well and will probably continue to do so. Again, no reason to see why the Q5 and Q3 won’t as well.

    Audi’s balance of engineering, performance and quality are what make the Q7 a uniquely desirable SUV. The same will be so for the cross-over market when the Q5 and Q3 arrive. The same for the super-car market with the R8. The RS4 is a 420 hp, 4-door sedan that has AWD. Not too many competitors, actually none.

  • avatar
    Claude Dickson

    Someone pointed me to an ad Audi runs in Europe (I think it was Italy), pardon me if I don’t get it exactly correct. But there is a wall key chain holder, the key chains are circles (of course). Every time a key chain is hung on the wall, the ad flashes a point about Audi like safety. The ad ends with something like the this “All this in one car?”

    That is a GREAT ad for Audi as it captures the balance that Audi strikes between a number of laudable aspects of the car. If Audi ran ads like that in the US, I would not be finding fault with their ad campaign.

    As for the “S” and “RS” versions, you need to drop the inferiority complex. I used the word “attempt” because I personally don’t know how successfully these limited production Audis compete with the competition. All I was trying to say is that the heart of the Audi line is about balance. The “S” and “RS” versions are less about balance and more about performance by their very nature. My comments were not directed towards these limited production Audis as would be clear upon reading my comments in context. I don’t hate these cars and I wasn’t trying to take a snide swipe at these cars. I frankly don’t know much about them other than what I’ve read and really have no opinion on these models.

    What amazes me is how the Audi faithful take a word like “attempt” and turn it into hating Audi. If I hated these cars, I’d come out and say it and not beat around the bush. TTAC is not a place where authors pull their punches.

    I don’t expect readers to agree with me. Frankly, it would be a little boring if they did. I’d just like readers to disagree with what I said, not what was never said or intended.

  • avatar
    FooledByMarketing

    The European ad you describe sounds like a great ad. This captures what I was trying to convery with Audi being “balanced and refined”. Safety, performance, engineering, interior, etc. all in one balanced and refined car.

    Contrast this to the “Streets of Tomorrow” Q7 ads we are getting bombarded with here in the USA. I don’t really like this slogan and I don’t understand what image they are trying to project. The visuals of the Q7 ad are pretty good, though, where they show the Audi Quattro from the 80’s and tie in the brand’s racing heritage. They are showing a sophisticated SUV with handling, performance and AWD. Not bad.

    What I was trying to show with the “S” and “RS” examples is that even with these performance-oriented models you STILL have a balanced, refined and practical sedan. My 2002 S4 is as good or better than any sedan in its class in terms of practicality, quality, interior and performance. It strikes a balance between performance and practicality. I am not saying it’s the best in all categories, but that it strikes the best balance between all of them.

    The M3, however, is more about performance than practicality. 2 doors, RWD, manual only, high-revving engine.. it’s a totally different car. That’s why I said the RS4 really does not have any direct competition and the M3 vs RS4 threads I have read seem to agree. The M3 doesn’t have any direct competition either.

    It’s not that I have an inferiority complex, but it’s probably more frustration at having to explain why exactly I bought an Audi instead of a BMW, to people that don’t know anything about cars except from what they see on TV ads. It’s a defensive mode I guess.

  • avatar
    Claude Dickson

    Fooled:

    This is the part non-Audiphiles don’t get. Audis are good cars. Audi isn’t GM producing cars people don’t want to buy. The “S” and “RS” models are serious cars that people take seriously. The Audi RS4 is no Cadillac CTS-V. I can see being defensive about that car, particularly when you claim its a M5 killer.

    Some piston heads might not take a RS4 over a M3, but the idea of taking a RS4 over a M3 is hardly a joke. And anyone who would simply looks at the Audi circles and asks why you didn’t buy a Bimmer doesn’t know much about cars.

  • avatar
    orbitmonkey

    As for the “S” and “RS” versions, you need to drop the inferiority complex. I used the word “attempt” because I personally don’t know how successfully these limited production Audis compete with the competition. All I was trying to say is that the heart of the Audi line is about balance. The “S” and “RS” versions are less about balance and more about performance by their very nature. My comments were not directed towards these limited production Audis as would be clear upon reading my comments in context. I don’t hate these cars and I wasn’t trying to take a snide swipe at these cars. I frankly don’t know much about them other than what I’ve read and really have no opinion on these models.

    What amazes me is how the Audi faithful take a word like “attempt” and turn it into hating Audi. If I hated these cars, I’d come out and say it and not beat around the bush. TTAC is not a place where authors pull their punches.

    I don’t expect readers to agree with me. Frankly, it would be a little boring if they did. I’d just like readers to disagree with what I said, not what was never said or intended.

    Ok, so maybe you’re not an Audi hater, but you’re clearly guilty of a strong opinion without the full knowledge of your subject. You admit to knowing very little about S and RS cars yet they are a very important part of Audi’s strategy. How could you even form a basis for an analysis without understanding these cars? Audi doesn’t have to sell 50,000 of these for them to be important models, they add huge legitimacy and attrack a lot of people to the brand and to the showroom.

    As far as nitpicking on the word “attempts”, I’m sorry but I think it merits some grumping. Whether you intended it or not the choice of words just happens to fall within a pattern of Audi naysayers. Would you ever say BMW attempts to compete with S and RS cars?

    Audi fans are sick of being double guessed. I’ve got news for everyone out there who points to the 3 series and M cars are de factor winners of their classes. It’s not very hard to design high performance and great handling vehicles when you’ve got the freedom to live by RWD and south of front axle engine mounts. Audi is so laudable exactly because they provide an unmatched combination of performance and AWD safety. Let me know when BMW is offering its Xi technology in its M cars. Yeah, I won’t be holding my breath.

    As far as that great Four Rings commercial, if you’ve seen it, then you and everyone else here should understand what is meant by the perfect blend of luxury, performance, sportiness, style and safety. Audi provides an unmatched combination.

  • avatar
    Claude Dickson

    Orbitmonkey, you just made my case. Audi IS about a blend of things like luxury, performance, sportiness, style and safety. One of the major points of the article is that Audi IS about a blend of things and Audi ought to be advertising that blend. If you re-read my article, you will see that is exactly what I said. I’ll help you out by quoting it for you.

    “If you combine Quattro, DSG and the 2.0T, you create an incredibly resourceful machine. The car can tackle severe weather conditions with confidence, deliver an exhilarating sporting experience on dry roads and waft with automatic ease in traffic. All this and entirely reasonable gas mileage.”

    In the next paragraph, I state that Audi should advertising themselves as the “Master of the practical sports sedan.” These comments are not only in agreement not only with you, but also FooledbyMarketing who talks of the Audi having the “best balanced” performance sports sedans. So you tell me I can’t understand Audi without understanding the “S” and “RS” models and then you reach the same conclusion I did concering Audi’s appeal! What does that tell you about the need to understand these models to understand Audi’s appeal???

    As for the ad campaign I mentioned, if Audi had that campaign in the US, there probably would have been no need to write my article in the first place and I said as much.

    So if you bothered to actually READ my comments, you would realize there is VERY little disagreement between us.

  • avatar
    FooledByMarketing

    Claude,

    You conclude the article with:

    “Audi has some terrific products. But the way the company has used its tools does not bode well for their future. Audi doesn’t seem to understand its current strengths, or know how to carve-out a path to greater sales and profitability that takes advantage of those strengths. Like Detroit, Audi needs to do a little soul-searching and renew its focus on its “real” identity: fun-to-drive four-wheel drive sedans.”

    So your point here is that Audi’s moves into the SUV market with the Q7 and the cross-over market with the Q5 and Q3 are missteps by Audi and that they are moving away from their strengths. Is this correct?

    But then many of your comments seem to find fault with Audi’s advertising in the USA.

    Do you find fault with Audi’s new models, Audi’s advertising, or both? (Or just Germans in general? just kidding)

  • avatar
    nino

    P.P.S. If I had a significant other who actually declared a luxury car I gave to her to be “beneath” her, I wouldn’t even have time to wonder where my life took a wrong turn, I’d be to busy killing myself. Or her.

    My thoughts exactly.

  • avatar
    crackity jones

    FooledByMarketing:

    Your pull-quote is the entire point. Way to isolate!

    -Audi has beat the quattro drum to death for 25 years. It don’t mean jack to most people who live outside the ‘snow belt’. That’s a lot of people, BTW.

    -Building your brand on a $1,500 option called AWD makes you too expensive for the bulk of America. They’ll cross shop to Subaru (and do, all the time).

    -Check out the seat/cargo space in an A4 Avant. (Or the price on an A6 Avant.) Then you’ll see why the SUV’s are here. It’s not a misstep. It’s low-hanging fruit.

    -Audi’s advantage over the other Germans is style. FWD or AWD. Their callilng card is modernity. If they made their cars 50% more fun to drive and 50% less beautiful, they’d go under. BMW will always win on performance. Always. (They have too much of a head start and they are too good.)

    -Audi has good products, but not too many terrific ones. (Terrific = must have for non-Audi fans.) They need more breakout products–like the A3, which surprises you with its power, interior dimensions and handling. (FWD has not kept the lower-end A3 from being a huge hit, or a 10-best vehicle. Its price point is right for a mass vehicle, while the quattro version would be too high for its market.)

    I’m speaking from a marketing perspective–the point of the editorial. All the German cars have their fans. The point is, knowing your strategy and your audience and executing. I believe Audi knows its strengths. Their upcoming product portfolio sounds good. I don’t see the problems this writer does.

    But I do see Audi needing more than quattro quattro quattro to enchant the American consumer. They seem to get that and are building a bigger brand.

  • avatar
    nino

    “I can fix, weld, solder, wrench, plumb, carpent and whack my thumb with a hammer knowing that too many people don’t even know which end of a hammer to hold. ”

    Good thing most people AREN’T like you.

    I’d be out of a job!

  • avatar
    FooledByMarketing

    crackity jones:

    -Audi has beat the quattro drum to death for 25 years…
    -Building your brand on a $1,500 option called AWD…
    -Audi’s advantage over the other Germans is style…

    I think Audi is building their brand on technology & engineering. quattro is maybe their most celebrated technology. Audi is an innovator: FSI, DSG, upcoming diesel hybrids, etc. and they have to sell this to the public. These are not just gadgets or gimmicks but important components in Audi’s products that set them apart.

    Technology & engineering may explain the “Streets of Tomorrow”…but this slogan strikes me as vague. Can Audi promote something like FSI or DSG to the public in an effective way?

  • avatar
    orbitmonkey

    Crackity Jones, FooledByM just made the point I was going to make in response to your post.

    If you think BMW is innovating, show me what they’ve done in the past several years other than an ugly as hell exterior style and a completely over engineered interior GUI system?

    Audi is innovating as well as if not better than their competitors?

    FooledByM forgot to mention DRC, although that was licensed from Yamaha, Audi had the sense to lock it up and provide yet another advantage over their competitors.

  • avatar
    crackity jones

    Guys, I agree with you. You’re talking brand-level stuff, which is what I think the entire post is focused on (not the merits of one particular car).

    Fooled…, as you say, technology is a much better platform for marketing than just quattro. The author is saying, redouble your efforts with the quattro sedan, but Audi has already done that. People need more to think about than AWD. The tech is a much bigger and more comprehensive story. (And it includes quattro as well, since they keep making it more efficient and give it a more performance-enhancing 40/60 split, etc. But it doesn’t exclude FWD.)

    Regarding my comment about BMW. I’m not saying they’re innovating. You’re right there, of course. What I am saying is, BMW’s positioning in the market is single-minded and rock-solid. Unless BMW completely fails, Audi CAN’T beat BMW on performance in the mental landscape of consumers. It’s strategically insurmountable. So, some of the posters who have said, the RS4 and S4 are evidence of Audi can go toe-to-toe with BMW, it’s just not wise to try to do that in the marketing realm. You waste your money advertising BMW. Let the dog have his bone. BMW stands for performance in the minds of 99% of the audience out there.

    The summation of all my comments has been, Audi doesn’t have to be a hard-core enthusiast brand to beat BMW, and in fact needs a broader message to appeal to the rung below the hard-core people (and of course, get those people as well, appealing to their sense of style and technology). Have the RS4 be a halo car, but keep on your strategy of innovation, as you so rightly put it.

    Streets of Tomorrow is terrible, terrible. We are all in agreement, Audi’s marketing is out of focus, out of date and just plain bad. As the author has said, marketing is one of the worst failures of Audi in America. Check out people who work for Audi dealerships and they’ll confirm that.

    I do think Audi gets all the other comments we’re making. They don’t need advice, really. They need to hone their stylish cars to the sweet spot, which I think the RS4 shows they know how to do. The next A4 should be a very very competitive car (the enthusiasts will still whine that it isn’t 1-dimensional like a BMW) but the people in the middle will love how it looks and how it drives.

  • avatar
    FooledByMarketing

    crackity jones:

    I think you make a good point that BMW means performance in the minds of the public (at least in the USA). But I think Audi doesn’t do enough to toot its own horn. My wife’s friend bought a 3 series recently and when my wife asked why she chose a BMW, the friend said “because it is sooo luxurious.” Now I’m not saying that BMW’s interiors are not luxurious, but Audi is the industry standard in this regard. This is something that Audi can easily market. If they want to show why the Q7 is not just another boring SUV, then start with Audi’s awards-winning interiors.

    You bring up the next generation A4, which is the most critical car for Audi. This car needs to be great, not just good like the current A4. From what I’ve read about it, they are addressing the main criticism of the current platform which is the handling and the front-heaviness. The RS4 is a huge step in the right direction in terms of handling, and when they fix this in the A4 and the other models…things will get very interesting.

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