By on December 30, 2015

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I was driving along the other day, and I found myself behind an Audi A6. A new Audi A6. A brand-new, midsize, luxurious Audi A6 sedan. And I thought to myself: When was the last time I saw one of these things?

This wasn’t always the case. Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, you saw the Audi A6 everywhere. They had that cool rounded design, and they were the dream of anyone who had an A4, or a 3-Series, or a C-Class. The Audi A6: The car that says you’ve made it — and that you need all-wheel drive.

So what the hell happened after that?

In 2005, Audi redesigned the A6. While sales briefly spiked, they didn’t stay up for long. By 2009 and 2010, U.S. sales were less than a quarter of their 2002 totals. A recent redesign helped, but it didn’t restore the A6 to its former glory. These days, Audi sells between 22,000 and 24,000 A6s a year in America, down from nearly 40,000 in the late 1990s. And it’s worse in Europe, where sales reached 126,000 in 1998 and 139,000 in 2006, only to fall to a steady 85,000 per year in the last few years.

I’ve always assumed that the A6 was losing sales to the smaller A4, which continues to grow larger and more family-oriented with every passing year. So I checked A4 sales figures — and guess what? While European sales peaked at 260,000 units a year sometime in the early 2000s, the A4 is now down in the range of 125,000 European sales per year. It’s just as bad in America, where A4 sales once easily cracked 50,000 units (in 2003) and have steadily declined each year since, despite redesigns in 2005 and 2008, to the current state of around 34,000 annual sales. That may not seem like a huge drop, but it’s a decline of more than a third from the boom times. That’s a big deal.

So, you might be wondering, if all the once-popular Audi models are going down the tubes, how the hell is this company not bankrupt?

I’ll tell you how: SUVs.

The Audi Q5 was released in calendar year 2009, right in the middle of the A4’s long, vast decline. Its first full year on the U.S. market, it sold 23,000 units. The next year, 25,000. Then 29,000. Then 40,000. Then 42,000. This year, they’ve already moved 46,000 Q5s in the first eleven months of the year.

Naturally, the Q5 isn’t the only Audi SUV that’s having a great time these days. Released in 2007, the Q7 sold 21,000 units in its first year on the market — and after a few rough years around 2010, facelifts and new engines have brought it back to 18,500 units in 2014, despite a fundamental design that’s seven years old. A new Q7 is coming this year, which should help to boost sales even further.

And then there’s the Q3, which didn’t even exist in the United States until about 18 months ago. This year, it has already shifted nearly 12,000 units through November, and those numbers only seem to be growing as the “subcompact luxury crossover” segment heats up rapidly.

And this leads to my question: Has Audi given up on making cars?

Of course not. The very premise is stupid. But let’s be clear: It appears that Audi, notoriously slow to respond to market demands and changing times, has very quickly seen the writing on the wall in this particular case. Demand for cars is down, so they’ve made SUVs. Many SUVs. Several models and hundreds of thousands of units globally. The company has clearly put its cards on the table, and its hand consists largely of SUVs.

This isn’t the case with rival automakers. Last year, the BMW 3-Series enjoyed its best U.S. sales year in more than a decade. The C-Class is in the same boat, with 2012, 2013 and 2014 going down as its best sales years in recent history. It’s even true of the aging E-Class, which has recorded 60,000 or more sales in every year since 2010, despite barely being able to crack 50,000 sales in the decade earlier.

My view: Audi has begun ceding the car market to its rivals, focusing instead on SUVs and crossovers. These days, the Q7 is the car that says you’ve made it and you need all-wheel drive. Seeing an A6 is merely an unusual surprise.

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104 Comments on “Doug Drives: Has Audi Given Up On Making Cars?...”


  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    My problem with Audi: the A6 has looked the same since about 2005 in all but subtle details, and the A3, A4, and A6 are almost indistinguishable from one another these days.

    Well, that and electrical problems.

    • 0 avatar
      energetik9

      I love how when the A3/S3 came out the press dubbed the styling “Audi retro”.

      No…..it looks exactly the same.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        Isn’t that because of the size? The A3 is about the size of the B5 A4. It certainly looks nothing like it though.

        • 0 avatar
          gamesdr

          Are you serious? Do a quick Google image search for ‘Audi A3 Sedan vs A4’ and tell us it “certainly looks nothing like it”.

          It’s identical.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            The B5 A4 was produced from 1994-2001 (longer in China). The current A3 is basically the same size as that A4. When people were talking about the A3 being retro or being a call back to the original A4, that’s what they are talking about. Otherwise, the A3 just looks like all of the other Audi sedans. Same sausage, different length.

    • 0 avatar
      outback_ute

      Agreed, one day when I have nothing better to do I will try to work out how to pick the new A4 model. Even the R8 it is basically the half-height side blade. Audi has overtaken Porsche, Clarksons laziest design department.

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        All the Audi “A” models look the same to me, but they follow the BMW model of each car being the same just slightly bigger: 3, 5, 7 series. Audi just seems to have more in-between sizes so the jump between them is hard to see. Add to this the same grill, tail lights and that CUV/SUV versions are just jacked up hatchback version of the cars and all of Audi vehicles blend into one shape. I’m not sure if this is brilliant design work or laziness.

        My wife wants a TT and I don’t blame her, at least its different. However its really too bad we don’t get the A3 in 2 door hatch form, that would be a perfect replacement for her Volvo C30.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      Audi is now more reliable than Honda.

      • 0 avatar
        S2k Chris

        “Audi is now more reliable than Honda.”

        Citation needed. And triple needed if you are talking about after, say, 30k miles.

        • 0 avatar
          VoGo

          I own an Accord and an A6. While my evidence is merely anecdotal, I am convinced that there is no scenario on earth in which Audi is more reliable than Honda.

          • 0 avatar
            matador

            I’ve never owned a Honda, but I own an older A6. I also cannot think of many scenerios where Hondas are less reliable than Audis (Though Honda did have some transmission issues).

            I’ve never been stranded by my A6, but I can rattle off a laundry list of problems that I’ve had. They’re not problems that will leave you stranded, but they’re problems still.

            People buy Hondas for reliability. You can fault Honda for a lot of things, but making reliable cars isn’t one of them.

        • 0 avatar
          jmo

          “Toyota and its Lexus luxury division topped Consumer Reports’ 2015 annual reliability study (subscription required), but Audi climbed to a best-ever third place among the 28 brands ranked. The German luxury brand, a subsidiary of the Volkswagen Group, had its best showing ever in CR’s annual study, which the magazine claims to draw from a subscriber base with more than 740,000 vehicles.”

          https://www.cars.com/articles/consumer-reports-reliability-study-toyota-thrives-fiat-fails-1420682551916/

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            I like that link becuase it points out that new automotive tech is less reliable than going for the mature slow/steady approach.

            “Toyota’s top marks come because it relies on proven technology.”

            “being slow and conservative has paid off in terms of reliability”

            “Audi has a pretty mature product line, which helps them”

            “What we’re seeing is more of the new technology having issues. That means multimedia systems and — increasingly this year — transmission problems”

            I expect the new Civic will crater Honda even more.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            Our A6 and A7 must have been exceptions, just like our CRV, Civic and TSX are. I’ve never been to a Honda dealer that has a stack of crated up replaced engines out back, but admittedly eleven years of Acura ownership and eleven years of Honda ownership haven’t provided as many dealer visits as three years of driving recent Audis did.

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            “I’ve never been to a Honda dealer that has a stack of crated up replaced engines out back”

            In Honda’s case they are transmissions in crates.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            When personal electronics devices fail, people reboot them and tolerate the glitches.

            When personal electronics devices installed in a dashboard fail, they end up as a black dot in Consumer Reports.

            Automakers want to be cool and cutting edge, but they are making a deliberate effort to install devices that can’t be hip and reliable at the same time.

            Nobody waits to work out all of the bugs before they sell consumer electronics — if they did, then they would always be behind and their businesses would fail. This creates a conflict for automakers that need to deal with reliability first and foremost.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            I’ve got photos of the mountains of Audi engines behind Audi of San Diego on Miramar, photos taken on two dates months apart. Any proof of common Honda transmission failures made in the past decade?

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            “Any proof of common Honda transmission failures made in the past decade?”

            If you read the actual CR article, the biggest item that pushed Audi ahead of Honda was how unreliable Honda’s new transmissions are.

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            Pch,

            I also have a hard time wrapping my head around how infotainment reliability should the ranked. For example, should a car that doesn’t offer hands free calling be ranked higher than another vehicle where you ocassionaly have to re-pair your phone?

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            No, I have no issue with CR surveying for electronics problems. Glitches are glitches, and everything is supposed to work.

            What I’m noting is that automakers are creating a problem for themselves by deliberately embracing a type of product that is **always** going to be prone to defects by its very nature.

          • 0 avatar
            S2k Chris

            “In Honda’s case they are transmissions in crates.”

            Honda (and Jeep and ZF) is/are having some trouble getting the software right on the new 9AT, but I don’t think they are experiencing outright failures as much as they are experiencing poor shift quality, etc. Not like the late 90s/early 00s when their V6/5AT combos were crapping out left and right.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            It’s not just that Audis require repairs more often than Hondas, but that the complexity, time and cost are so much greater.

            To change the air filter on a Honda is literally a 60 second job. Flip two connectors, pull out the old filter, put in the new one and flip back the 2 connectors. $18 part.

            To change the $60 air filter on the Audi 3.1 required 90 minutes of difficult labor, multiple youtube videos and an instruction manual and chewed up my hands in the process. Never again. I’m sure an experienced professional mechanic who knows these engines would have done it quicker, but nothing like the Honda.

            They are simply in different leagues when it comes to reliability and repairability.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            VoGo has it right. VW/Audi are scary because they combine a legacy of unreliability (although there are early signs they have improved in the 2010s) with a near-total, and continuing, absence of concern for serviceability.

            Fixing stuff on Hondas and Toyotas is wonderful. Sure, sometimes access is a bit of a pain because the cars are tightly packaged, but in the end it all comes apart and goes back together really easily. Domestic brands have more issues with breaky clips and adhesive, but they’re still laid out pretty logically. It’s ONLY the Germans who do things like make an air filter take an hour to replace. Hell, that air filter takes longer than all six spark plugs on my Legend (which I recently did in half an hour).

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        jmo, I can’t think of any case where Audi is more reliable than Honda as American consumers understand reliability: Repairs that cost me time and/or repairs that cost me money. I own an unreliable Honda that cost me $2000 to have the automatic transmission rebuilt when it was 11 years old. The rebuilt defective design transmission is failing again 5 years later. However, it hasn’t been touched by a mechanic in years and most of the OEM parts installed at the factory will make the final drive to the junkyard.

      • 0 avatar
        slap

        Of course, there is reliability, and there is the cost to fix/maintain a car. Even if Audi has improved the reliability, the cost of ownership is much higher.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      IMO, Audi has the best interior, and especially, exterior design.

      They are masterful at designing vehicles with the perfect balance of elements, without trending too far in any one aspect (e.g. Lexus predator grille; e.g. Acura beak).

      The S7 is sublime, and not one Audi sedan or hatch looks anything less than nicely balanced. Even the new TT is beautiful.

      If it ain’t broken, why fix it for the sake of change?

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        You’re right. Not only are Audi interiors excellent, but they wear extremely well. Our 10 year old A6 still looks showroom new inside, with zero visible wear, even on the leather seats.

        • 0 avatar
          never_follow

          They had a few teething issues with their initial soft touch bits, but I agree. Out of 4 Audi’s between 10 and 26 years old, only 1 has had a crappy trim bit. (Aforementioned soft touch on a 2002 S8 door handle.)

          No rips in leather, and minimal wear as well. Compared to your usual junkyard fodder, even the ones in pick+pulls are usually nice.

          Their plastic bits, on the other hand…

  • avatar
    energetik9

    Most people I know that own Audi’s, own SUVs. I was always intrigued by the S4 and S5 (and specifically the RS versions), but in the end, I could just never get excited about them. There were always better options. I think one factor is that the sedans (and A5) seem to be secodn tier when it comes to upgrades and restyle. It just seems like the car never changes.

  • avatar
    Yankee

    No comments yet? I must be the only one off work today. Ok, I’ll start things off. This is why I read TTAC every day: excellent article with a unique perspective you will only find here. But in the typical TTAC reader tradition, I would like to ask a question that is off-topic. Does anyone else wonder what’s up with the Darth Vader grill treatment that everyone is using these days? I think Audi actually started this one, but why is everyone copying. Look at the car in the photo. Even though I hate German cars, I have to admire the coachwork, the sculpted lines, and fit and finish. And then they graft that plastic scab on the front of the car and ruin it. The most comical excess of this trend by far is the new Toyota Yaris, which looks like a grille from an earth-moving machine glued on an econobox. Does anyone else have a problem with this?

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      “No comments yet? I must be the only one off work today.”

      Just the opposite, I make a lot more internet comments/forum posts when AT work. I see the same pattern in forum traffic, heavy on weekdays, slow on the weekend.

    • 0 avatar
      Rnaboz

      It was either Audi or Mitsubishi with the Lancer. The first edition on the Audi was nice. Now it is a gross miscue. I hope this feature is done with before I buy again. It really ruins the front of any car it is on.

    • 0 avatar
      energetik9

      Audi started it and Lexus went obnoxious.

      This is one of the resons I took an RS5 off my short list. OK, besides weight, understeer, and some other info I was getting.

      Why the German Auto hate?

      • 0 avatar
        Yankee

        I really WANT to like German cars. I don’t want to be grouped with the Asian car fanboys and their fart-can exhausts. My first car was a 1980 VW Scirocco, and I’ve owned two GTIs and an A4. But after working on them professionally and being a service advisor at two Audi dealerships and a service manager at a VW dealership, I saw the myth of “German Engineering” first hand. Right out of the gate the Audi’s burned oil (we were supposed to tell our customers, many of whom had never opened a car’s hood, that having to add a quart or so every 1,000 miles was normal). By 30,000 miles they were leaking it. By 50,000 miles the suspension bushings were cracking and pushing themselves out. We wished we could tell our customers that the check engine light was part of the interior illumination system, since it was always on. The Germans are innovators: everything from antilock brakes, mass air flow meters, and electronic ignition on down to the humble shift interlock were German innovations. Then the Japanese look at these innovations and copy them using fewer parts and better designs. I always tell people, if you don’t mind being a beta tester for unproven new technology and want to be in a very safe car while you’re sitting on the side of the road, by all means, buy German.

        • 0 avatar
          S2k Chris

          “I don’t want to be grouped with the Asian car fanboys and their fart-can exhausts.”

          I don’t disagree with the sentiment, but in reality, when was the last time someone put a fart can on a newer Japanese car (aside from a WRX/STi?) Honestly, most stupid-modded cars I see these days here in Chicagoland are GTIs.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Yes, yes. The GTIs are all stanced and modded now. My cousin ruined his GTI by lowering, stancing, and adding dumb looking Beetle rims. Never buy a used GTI unless you can verify where it’s been!

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            bball: Stancing is dumb, but a GTI on those dog-dish Beetle rims actually sounds kind of awesome. Maybe that’s just because my mom briefly had an ’80 Golf 1.5 (Euro-spec) with similar rims when I was growing up.

            S2k: Come out to the west coast. You’ll see plenty of fart cans on newer Hondas and Toyotas.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            They look dumb when stanced. I should have been more specific. They would be great as winter rims for a GTI. Remember, I have a unreasonable amount of want for the Explorer Police wheels.

        • 0 avatar
          energetik9

          Yankee…One of my first cars was also a 1980 Sirocco. That is the car that made me fall in love with German. It had more spirit and soul that any American or Japanese car my parents ever owned that I grew up with.

          Sounds like your bias is against VW and Audi, not German as a whole. There are other German makes of course. I have two differnet German brand cars in the garage that are not VW/Audi , so I might be biased. btw, they’ve never left me on the side of the road :)

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      “Does anyone else wonder what’s up with the Darth Vader grill treatment that everyone is using these days?”

      European pedestrian impact standards.

  • avatar

    My first experience with an Audi was when my Real Estate team made Christmas Bonus and my partner went out and brought a brand new A8. the interior was awesome…the features such as parking sensors all-around…lighting that dimmed or brightened as you entered and exited turns…a wine cooler… Coolest thing I’d ever seen up till that point (this was 2007).

    But then I met the W222.

    And then I leased a W222…

    Everything else just seemed cheap and imperfect after that.

    Audi’s new cars are “OK”, but nothing says “I’ve made it” like a Mercedes Benz.

    Even BMW’s feels cheaper inside.

    Nothing Audi or BMW has looks as rich as a new Mercedes C, E or S class.

    Audi owners are basically flocking towards Audi’s crossovers and SUV’s for their AWD systems and lower prices than MB.

    • 0 avatar
      Zykotec

      Yes, and only plebs need soft seats and actual suspension. Or electronics that work…
      TBH, most of my experience with MB was from back then their reputation for quality was more than a reputaion, so I’ve never ridden in or driven an even remotely comfortable Merc. My 88 Audi 100 Quattro had decent enough seats, but the Quattro suspenion almost copied the rock hard Merc suspenion from 70’s and 80’s.
      I have no respect for the old Quattro drivetrain though, which is pretty basic and agricultural.
      I’m not rich, and don’t plan on being it, so there might be something about the feeling of being completely distanced from actually driving a car, that is the whole point of Mercs, and that I can’t understand?

      • 0 avatar
        cimarron typeR

        I think the Torsen based awd system, was brilliant, I had over 170k on my v6 90q 5mt without ever changing the diff fluid.I upgraded bilstein HDs around 100k, which significantly increased steering feel and overall handling.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      I find the current A8 interior to be every bit the W222’s equal. The styling isn’t as garishly fancy, but the materials are just as good and it’s just as comfortable.

      • 0 avatar
        manny_c44

        Mercedes styling is a real put off for me as well…to me Audi has always seemed more like Volvo or SAAB (but more stable as a company). People buy BMWs and MBs to ‘make statements’ whereas Audi has just been a sturdier, sharper looking VW with more powerful engines and AWD. If you don’t want old people to jealously gawk at you while you drive by but you still want a nice European car, Audi’s more or less the only place to go.

        I will probably buy a used Audi soon (2.0 tfsi, wish me luck) and didn’t even consider looking at BMW or Mercedes because they are ‘statement brands’.

  • avatar
    Fred

    Except for BMW and MB, are there any other brands that cars haven’t decreased comparted to SUV?

  • avatar
    kkop

    Here in the ATL burbs, there are plenty of A6 Audi’s still, although maybe not as many as 5 years ago.

    My guess is former owners, with the economy roaring back, either switched to an SUV, or upgraded to the A8. A8L is surprisingly common here for how much it costs.

  • avatar
    smartascii

    The thing is, it’s the best-driving German car its size. I get these as rentals from Sixt when I reserve a Premium car. I get E-Classes from Mercedes Benz of Easton while they do whatever voodoo turns a routine A-Service into a $4,000 experience. And I get a 5-Series from Hertz, on occasion. Granted, they’re all as fleet-spec as midsize German sedans get, but if you have ever considered buying a sports sedan because of the “sport” part, the A6 is hands-down the one to get. The Mercedes is old (a redesign is coming) and the BMW feels for all the world like a Chinese Lexus knockoff. I realize that the labels will wear off all of the radio buttons and the dash’ll light up like a Christmas tree before the Audi’s first oil change, but man does it feel good.

    • 0 avatar
      Marone

      “…it’s the best-driving German car its size”

      I respect your opinion and understand this is personal preference, but I would argue it is not the best. If you move into the performance segments (S and RS variants), Audi is definitely trailing. Audi suffers from perpetual balance issues, bloat, and handling shortfalls.

      • 0 avatar
        manny_c44

        Audi’s are always put down for ‘understeering at the limit’ but please consider this: when you are on unfamiliar roads, when there is weather or when you are sharing the roads with other traffic (which is always); I think just hammering through the corners with AWD and lots of traction and good brakes is more fun than RWD.

        I recently had a rental MB c220 from sixt (2.1 Diesel) and the back wheels were breaking traction quite often on even moderately damp roads. If you are not a closed track but want to enjoy driving all of the time I think an Audi is pretty fun. Real-world sportiness with safe understeer built in. But no good for the track I guess.

        • 0 avatar
          Marone

          “I recently had a rental MB c220 from sixt (2.1 Diesel) and the back wheels were breaking traction quite often on even moderately damp roads.”

          I didn’t drive it (obviosuly), but from what I’m hearing that’s a tire problem, not a drive problem. A rental fleet MB is coming with hard, cheap, all season tires.

          I drive an SUV and a German AWD sports car, my wife drives a RWD German car. I’m fully aware of the driving dyamics of the two. Fun is fun, understeer and bloat kill that fun.

    • 0 avatar
      energetik9

      Not sure I’d use rental-spec BMWs as a baseline for comparison.

      I have always made the statement that there is no point in a BMW without the sport package. What’s the point?

      If I truly wanted “Sport”, I wouldn’t move to an Audi, but as noted above, that’s just my preference.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “But if you have ever considered buying a sports sedan because of the “sport” part, the A6 is hands-down the one to get”

      Cadillac?

      Please don’t laugh.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        The CTS is actually really good. For the price, I wish it had the LT1 but maybe that’s just me.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          “But maybe that’s just me”

          It’s not.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            The CTS-V doesn’t interest me as much as a naturally aspirated LT1 V8 CTS would. I don’t know why GM won’t play to their strengths. That V8 is probably more powerful and fuel efficient than the boosted 6s that the competition has.

        • 0 avatar
          matador

          That’s not a bad suggestion. I’ve ruled out Cadillacs completely for my next car, but the only reason is the Northstar. If newer Cadillacs have their engine issues resolved, that could be a really good choice.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          I don’t understand the wish to put vibratey, rip-snorty, uncouth small-blocks in luxury cars (except for insane track variants). They’re powerful, but they don’t feel luxurious.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            I like rip-snorty, uncouth small-blocks. If it as luxurious feeling as a 300C then I’m personally fine.

            I’d be thrilled if GM would build an LT1 or L83 powered RWD Alpha platform sedan for Chevy or Buick but that is 100% never going to happen.

            The SS will be dead in a few months, the Caprice is fleet-only (and getting killed with the SS), Ford is going turbo/AWD in everything, the LX cars are built out of chewing gum and old scrap metal, the pony cars have cramped interiors, and I don’t want a truck.

            Cadillac is pretty much where any future muscle sedan hopes exist.

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            “rip-snorty, uncouth small-blocks”

            That is a most felicitous phrase!

            TTAC, please launch a series of articles under that title, like a compendium of everybody’s favorite small blocks.

            Because this site has the woodwork full of passionate fans of such and dal’s phrase deserves some legs.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            It’s more luxurious feeling than the 2.0T tractory start-stop thing that is in the 5-series.

  • avatar
    gasser

    Here in West Los Angeles, Audi is doing VERY well. But they’re mostly SUVs. In my immediate neighborhood there are 3 brand new Q7s, 3 new Q5s (one a release on a previous Q5). There’s one new S4 and one A3 TDI and a 2014 A6 3.0T. That’s it. NO standard A6s, no A8s at all. This used to be Mercedes territory, then BMW became popular. Now I see only one S class and one C class remaining from a sea of Benzes. BMW was heavily represented, then it faded to an X5 diesel and one die hard M5 driver. Oh, there are about a half dozen Prius running about and the Ford Fusions are all hybrids in this neighborhood. This may be due to the fact that despite oil being $40/ bbl, gas is $3.19 a gallon for regular here in Sunny Southern California (its 34 degrees as I write this).

  • avatar
    make_light

    It’s interesting though, because all of Audi SUV models are OLD. I mean, the Q7 will be new soon, but the current one is old. Even the Q3, although new to the US, is an old design. The Q5 is old.
    So to say they’ve given up on cars and invested in SUVs doesn’t quite seem right. But people still are buying these aged designs. A family friend was recently deciding between a Q5 and Murano. I tried to swing her towards the Murano, which is a far newer design, more distinctive, and just as luxurious. But guess which she went for.
    I’m not throwing shade towards Audi by all means. I actually love them, and if I could afford a luxury marquee, an Audi would likely be my pick. But still, it’s interesting to see them get away with big SUV sales figures when the designs are so dated.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      How do you end up choosing between a Murano and Q5? There are quite a few vehicles in between.

      • 0 avatar
        Mandalorian

        As someone who bought a Q7, it makes sense. It costs the same as an A6, less than an A7 and gives more utility than either.

        I would be willing to bet midsize sedans cut into the A4 sales. A decently equipped A4 is $40k and not too many people are willing to pay that when they can get a loaded up V6 Accord/Camry/Altima/etc for $30k.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I owned a first generation A6 Quattro in the early 2000s. It was the only European car I have ever owned. And it will be the only Audi I will probably ever own. Great for the couple months it worked 100%, but once things started breaking, it was a never ending cycle of CELs and horrible snapping noises at random.

    Something I’ve noticed about SUVs is how their designs have trended like cars in the 80s and 90s. They started out tall and boxy and have all sort of evolved into a “used bar of soap” type design that became so popular in the 90s. Eventually we’ll have “retro” SUVs and it will have all come full circle.

  • avatar

    Audi simply added a second sausage to their “same sausage, different length” smorgasbord. But whereas the sedan sausage was organic with the occasional hint of spice, the CUV sausage is full fat and bad for you and everyone around you.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    What’s funny is that Q5 launch spots carried the message “stand out in a crowd.”

    Now they’re the crowd. I see more Q5s than Altimas these days.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    My brother-in-law bought a new A6 this year. Let me take it for a spin round the neighborhood after Thanksgiving dinner. THE POWER.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    Audi stopped building cars when they started putting an ‘A’ in the model designations. OK, The 100 lived on as an A6 for a while, but after that, dead stop, fashion accessories.
    Sadly this coincided with them hiring a stylist, so the fashion accessories definitely looked better than the (at best) generic looking (but often quite well engineered) cars than came before the A-bombs…
    Some people will agree with me, some will continue to settle with just being wrong…

  • avatar
    Fordson

    “And this leads to my question: Has Audi given up on making cars?

    Of course not. The very premise is stupid.”

    The very headline is stupid.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    My guess is that 10-20 years ago a substantial portion of Audi car sales were from people that wanted AWD, and during that era Audi was one of the few premium providers. Today it is impossible to find a BMW or Mercedes on a showroom floor in snow country that is not AWD, so many former Audi sedan buyers now buy one of the other Germans or they have switched to a CUV.

    • 0 avatar
      matador

      This has a lot to do with it. Subaru was really the only AWD competitor in town for a while. Today, you can order up a Taurus, Charger, or Fusion with all wheel drive.

      This, coupled with the fact that technology has advanced so much creates a problem for companies like Audi. Today’s Ford Fusion offers more technology and features than a 10 year old luxury car. When lower brands produce such nice cars, all that’s left is brand prestige….

      Which, Audi doesn’t have too much of. A BMW or Mercedes has a lot more brand appeal to most people, leaving Audi the odd man out.

      • 0 avatar
        JD23

        Audi also has far more models than 10 – 20 years ago; in particular, the A3, A5 and A7 did not exist during that period. The current C7 A6 has significantly higher sales than the previous C6, so as usual, the premise of Doug’s article is flawed.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Audi is actually the luxury brand that IMO is handling this problem the best, by making interiors with material quality and detail engineering that are just too expensive for a mainstream brand to match. Although they have a strong reputation and have kept their sales up with very effective financial products, I think BMW is the luxury brand that is suffering the worst from this. There’s really nothing separating a volume-configuration 328i xDrive from an AWD 2.0T Fusion except powertrain layout, which matters little in light of BMW’s suspension and steering tuning for volume configurations.

        • 0 avatar
          JD23

          “Audi is actually the luxury brand that IMO is handling this problem the best, by making interiors with material quality and detail engineering that are just too expensive for a mainstream brand to match”

          I agree with this. I own a fairly new Audi and have rented most of the high-volume midsize sedans in the past year, including the Camry, Fusion and Optima. Although the newest midsize sedans can match and even exceed the seven-year old B8 platform in electronic gadgets, there is still a tangible difference in interior material quality, fit and finish between the A4 and the mainstream midsize sedans. Given Audi’s price premium, a difference in interior is expected, but there really is more to the appeal than simply badge prestige.

          • 0 avatar
            manny_c44

            Yes the interior quality is just a step above. Even from VW to Audi the step is pronounced. Every interior plastic and fabric is just more solid. Even 10 year old Audis don’t squeak or rattle which is impressive given the variety of interior materials. The feeling of tank-like solidity is there.

            I mean even the headliner in an Audi TT (mk2) is just surprisingly expensive feeling compared to volume cars. Weird that a headliner made such an impression on me…

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    I drove an A7 for a few months, which caused me to notice how common they are in San Diego. Has the A7 eaten into A6 sales? It replaced one as my company car for a while.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      It doesn’t appear so. A6 sales are up since the introduction of the A7. Since the market has been exploding anyway, maybe the A6 would have had more sales without the A7?

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Given the pricing I expect the A7 may have eaten more into A8 sales than A6.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        That’s possible. The A8 has sold around 6000 units a year since 2011. 2013 was the A8s best ever year. It looks like the A7 took some growth from both the A8 and A6 but mostly added sales for the Audi brandl. After looking over the numbers, it seems like a rather successful addition to Audi’s lineup.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    At least in this neck of the woods I’m more likely to see an Audi than a BMW or Mercedes. For whatever reason it seems to be a first buy for many of the up & coming wealthy.

  • avatar
    iganpo

    I borrowed a fully loaded A4 for a couple days and came away very impressed with the driving dynamics. Fast steering ratio and super flat cornering made it feel like a very lightweight, tossable car. Couple things really annoyed me though. All the buttons make a tacky click sound. I know it’s deliberately their design decision but it just reminds me too much of the switchgear from early nineties Fords. Tactile buttons should be silent. Second, the trunk’s tie down hooks are gratuitously chunky and polished, as if to make the consumer think that such an overengineered detail implies the rest of the car is likewise of such highly quality engineering, which we all know is not true when it comes to reliability. Toyota’s design decision are the diametric opposite — the tie down hooks are plastic and snap right off, but the cars are reliable where it matters.

  • avatar
    GS 455

    Up here in The Great White North (where we’re having an unusually warm winter thanks to El Nino) I still see A6s fairly regularly but I have to get close enough to read the model designation to tell it from an A4. Q5s seem to outnumber both of these by 5 to 1. I’ve driven the Genesis 3.8 AWD and the A6 3.0T and while the Hyundai is an excellent value, the A6 is a more refined car in every way; ride, handling, engine, NVH, and interior quality. The Genesis offers more interior space, particularly the back seat but to me the Audi is worth the extra money. In really slippery conditions Audi’s Quattro along with Subaru’s AWD (with winter tires of course!!!) are still the most effective AWD systems. I think the new Q7 is going to further erode the A6’s sales though. Early test reports indicate it has sedan like ride and handling characteristics with much more room, comfort and practicality for a price similar to the A6.

  • avatar
    George B

    I see the Audi Q5 on the streets much more frequently than the A6 here in North Texas. Can’t remember the last A6 I saw. In contrast, the Mercedes E and BMW 5 series are fairly common.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    We test drove a Q5 before settling on a Lexus Rx350. Very impressed with the solidity of the Q5, but coming out of an unreliable car we decided to err towards relaibility.

    When I retire and won’t need to depend on something reliable for my 20k+ miles a year, I’d love to get an A4 Quattro. Very classy in a subtle way.

  • avatar
    JD23

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audi#Production_figures

    As usual, the premise of Doug’s article is specious. Worldwide A6 production actually reached its highest level during the period between 1998 and 2012 in 2012.

  • avatar
    Forty2

    Too generic. The A4 especially looks the same as it did after the 2009 refresh. I leased a 2007 A4 and that design I think was the last time the A4 looked good. The Audi design language is stale and the engines are getting a little long in the tooth, at least the 2.0T which I see they’re now stuffing into the A6.

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    I owned one of those ultra popular ’98-’04 C5 gen A6s. At the time. An E39 540i Sport may have been more fun to drive, but both it and the comparable E-class had interiors that felt stuck in 1986. While the other two looked old and tired on the inside, the Audi was modern, sleek, and felt extremely premium. The 3.5RL and gen 2 Lexus GS couldn’t come within a mile. It was BY FAR the nicest mid-lux car on sale at the time.

    Then Audi totally blew it with the C6 ’05-’11 replacement. The base C5 A6 3.0 was replaced by the A6 3.2, and the extremely quick A6 2.7T, which blew the doors off the 528i and E320, was replaced with nothing. You either had to step it up and pay for the V8, or be stuck with the sluggish, torqueless 3.2.

    The C6 finally brought a proper NAV and infotainment system to the A6 which was definitely better than what iDrive and COMAND offered in 2005, but the rest of the interior design was uninspired compared to the C5, and compared to daring, love it or hate it E60 Bangle 5 series. BMW at least took a risk, Audi didn’t.

    Audi also didn’t really understand yet how to integrate a big screen into the dash, so the upper center stack in the C6 was just a flat gray plastic slab of blandness. Audi’s problems with cup holders continued (one was still under the arm rest), their problems with EXTREMELY conspicuous blank button placeholders for missing features worsened dramatically (most C6 cars will have at least FIVE blank buttons right in the center of the dash) and several severe ergonomic issues continued, and continue to this day, such as the flat, rock hard vinyl door mounted armrests. Weirdly, VW doesn’t have that issue. A base VW Jetta has soft, padded armrests. New Audi A4? Rock hard vinyl.

    The E60 5 series certainly had its problems, but especially after its 2008 refresh, it was a really good car. Audi’s refresh for the C6 on the other hand ushered in the era of severely restricted options and cost cutting. Leather dash? Gone. Sport package with sport seats and steering wheel? Gone. You could order a 5 or E a multitude of different ways, but an A6 from then on was black, gray, or beige. The engine problem was finally solved in 2009 with the 3.0″T” superchaged V6, but it was too late, the C6 had been a dud for 4 years by that point, and once you could get a 535i with xDrive in 2008, there was no real reason to buy one at all.

    The current C7 gen is much better and more competitive than the C6 was particularly at launch, as it has to be as there is no longer any competitor that doesn’t offer AWD. It’s still not the killer that the C5 was in its day, though. The styling is “fine” but it doesn’t stand out at all. The MMI system is good, but iDrive is still largely considered the gold standard. The interior is “good enough” but problems still remain. The door armrests still aren’t leather, and are only a TINY bit softer than previous rock hard A6 armrests. The center stack is still littered with blank buttons that you won’t find in ANY competitor, not even a Hyundai Genesis. The lower part of console where the cup holder door is is also hard, nasty, dirt cheap Jetta grade plastic.

    And as with the previous C6 post refresh, options are still SEVERELY restricted compared to what you can get in UK or EU market A6s, which is not the case with the F10 5 series. It’s better than it was before, but there’s still none of this stuff, even on your supposedly “top trim” Prestige model:

    -no S-line sport seats
    -no full leather package
    -no Audi exclusive wood inlays
    -no alcantara headliner
    -no adaptive air suspension
    -no QuattroSport rear diff

    Want any of that stuff without having to buy an S6? Too bad for you, move to the UK.

  • avatar
    White Shadow

    Sorry people, but Audi still makes some of the most stylish cars on the roads today. They have nice driving dynamics too. I might eventually replace my A5 with an A7, but then I’d have to give up the 6MT. So probably not!

  • avatar
    hudson

    My Mother and my Mother in law drive Q5s and my father has a Diesel Q5 “stuck in delivery”. They’re literally everywhere. I think the appeal to people who want to be pampered in a bland wrapper. I would drive one if it was given to me, but that’s about it. It’s the new Dodge Caravan for boomers IMHO.

    My wife and I were new car shopping this summer and nearly died laughing when a salesman suggested a Q5 to us. As an aside, nothing could compel us to part with our Saturn Astra which is paid for and fine enough when compared to whats available right now.

  • avatar

    I remember how Audi-80 changed design language in late 80s. It made all other cars instantly look outdated. I wanted to own (used) one but it was too impractical as a family car (too small and almost no trunk space). I could not afford personal car. Then it was replaced with breathtakingly beautiful A4. It went downhill since then. I mean they still look elegant and modern but nothing breathtaking. I always was a fan of American full size American cars from 90s like Caprice, Crown Vic, Roadmaster and so on but they were too impractical to own outside of US. But they were bold and had presence. Unfortunately it is now a history – American cars look just like all other cars.

    I own Fusion and can tell you that to replace cabin filter I had to remove glove box. It takes multiple steps and unscrewing parts. Not a big deal, can be done in half an hour but still. It is a German way of doing things, probably the reason why they lost all wars (Fusion originally was designed in Germany as Mondeo).

    • 0 avatar
      Zykotec

      Although Audi is the german brand I dislike the least, and I know design is a subjective thing, ‘breathtakingly beatiful’ is just not a word I can even begin to imagine working with any Audi before the A8 and A5 were made (and even then it is a stretch)
      It is possible that I can’t see the threes through the woods here, I know the fit an finish of the Audis are miles above other cars that looked similar, and that the aerodynamics of their older designs were miles above cars that looked similar, but the last 80 (which is my least favourite design ever) and first A4, aren’t exactly very ecxiting designs, and they look a lot like old luxurious Ford Escorts, that were just assembled properly, with expensive parts.
      Also, one thing I liked about my C4 Audi 100, is that it looks so much like a Crown Vic, and CV’s are pretty rare over here XD

  • avatar
    Ol Shel

    SUVs used to be trucks, but that’s no longer the case.

    It would be smart to just call them what they are: AWD hatchbacks. They’re not BOF and they don’t have the hauling capacity, so why not just call them what they are: cars.

    What happened to Audi? Sales are through the roof.

  • avatar
    Whatnext

    Someone nailed with it Audi’s glacial pace of styling change. There’s not enough change and the design language has been around for ever. If da Silva is indeed leaving, its probably high time.

  • avatar
    CincyDavid

    I have been a car enthusiast since the 60s but I am at a point that I have trouble differentiating between 3/5/7 series BMWs and A3/4/6/8 Audis, and the latest MB S Class looks small to me…it’s confusing to me.

    I have owned two Audis, a 91 100s quattro which had an amazing interior…beautiful car but growly, underpowered inline 5 and worse gas mileage than the boxy BMW 528e…and a 98 A4 1.8t quattro that I hated…pleather seats, felt ponderous and no fun to drive, had reliability issues.

    Not a fan of CUVs, but it is telling that my kids fight over who gets to drive the 06 Kia Sportage, over a 13 Civic and a 14 Accord…they both like sitting up and seeing what’s going on.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    Here in the midwest part of the migration to luxury cuv/suvs is the poor condition of roads and limited snow removal budgets.


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