The idea of a compact, sporty entry-luxury crossover is appealing.
It’s a sort of a “have your cake and it too” proposition – you get the utility of a crossover, but it’s also fun to drive and at least a little bit upscale. Sure, it’s expensive, but perhaps not out of reach for the upwardly mobile young (or youngish) urban professional.
The new Audi Q3 is en route for a launch later this week, but Audi gave us a sneak preview of the model in a teaser video. As the smallest crossover the brand has ever sold in the United States, the Q3 is in a hot segment right now. However, it hasn’t managed to outpace the more expensive Q5 in terms of overall sales. With 20,633 deliveries in 2017, the crossover sells well enough, but pales in comparison to the units moved by its larger sibling.
It does look to be on schedule to surpass the A3 in terms of sales by the end of the year, though. The fact that crossovers are killing the smaller to midsize car segment isn’t much of a secret anymore. But it’s as true for Audi as it is most other brands, which is why the Q3 needs to be a success. You can see the brand going the extra mile — even in this little teaser.
What's the Volvo XC40 Getting Into? America's Subcompact Luxury Crossover Segment Is Tiny But Growing Fast
Of the 1.4 million new vehicles sold in the United States of America each month, premium auto brands account for slightly more than one out of every ten new vehicle acquisitions.
More than 55 percent of the vehicles now sold by premium auto brands in America are utility vehicles. Of the nearly 100,000 luxury SUVs/crossovers sold in America each month, 7 percent are subcompacts, vehicles positioned below the compact BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLC, Audi Q5, and a variety others.
It’s a sliver of a slice of a chunk of a pie. But that sliver is growing far faster than the overall U.S. auto market, far faster than the U.S. luxury vehicle market, and far faster than the U.S. luxury SUV/crossover market.
Into that four-vehicle premium subcompact crossover segment now jumps the Volvo XC40, timed to roughly coincide with the arrival of the Jaguar E-Pace. It’s a segment that, to date, no automaker has yet found a way to dominate.
Confirmation bias can be a tricky thing to overcome in this business. You might not know this, but some people in this business think I have a bit of a preference for the Blue Oval. Some of my frenemies in the automotive journalism world have accused me of being pro-Honda. As for me, I’d like to think that I can objectively evaluate any car, but let’s be realistic here — we’re all humans. We have experiences and biases that rear their ugly heads even when we are doing our damnedest to shove them deep down inside ourselves.
But there’s a entire class of car I personally find reprehensible, for no other reason than I find the types of people who drive them to be, well, reprehensible. When I think “Luxury Compact CUV,” I think “ Basic Bitch.” These vehicles serve no actual purpose. In most cases, they have less space than their compact car siblings, worse gas mileage, and prices that soar at least $5-7k higher. The only reason to purchase or (more likely) lease such a Basicmobile is to fit in with the other SAHMs in your subdivision who have seamlessly transitioned from college frat mattress to PTA vice-president in only 10 years flat. When a female friend of mine texted me recently with, “What do you think about the Audi Q3?” my response was so vile that I can’t put it into print (and if you think about the things I’ve written, that’s saying something).
As a result, I was absolutely determined to hate the 2017 Audi Q3 Premium when I selected it from the Emerald Aisle at Miami International Airport. There was only one problem with drinking this particular flavor of haterade.
It’s a pretty damn good car.
Some cars genuinely suck. There is essentially no price at which, for instance, wooden ride quality and inept handling and nonexistent acceleration and uncomfortable seats and disappointing fuel economy are worth the asking price. There are simply far too many decent alternatives for a vehicle such as, oh, I don’t know, the Mitsubishi Mirage.
Some cars, however, only suck in the context of their respective MSRPs. Take the Ford Flex we reviewed recently as an example. Though showing signs of age, it’s still a fine family hauler. But at the $50,000 as-tested price, the Flex is uncompetitive.
Then there’s this 2017 Audi Q3. Perhaps it’s an acceptable machine at its $33,875 entry price. But optioned up to $44,150, the aged Q3 may be guilty of simply resting upon the laurels of its four-ring badge.
Does the 2017 Audi Q3 suck, or does it only suck when it strays out of Single-A ball into the Major Leagues?
TTAC is the American car buyer’s influencer of choice. We render verdicts, and the masses abide by our verdicts. Why do Americans buy more than 400,000 Toyota Camrys per year? Because TTAC’s Jack Baruth track-tested a Camry and was more than a little complimentary. That’s why.
Want more evidence of TTAC’s overwhelming authority? On April 11, this article on the subject of the Audi Q3 written by yours truly accused the Q3’s ride comfort of being nonexistent. I said the Q3 is the Audi that makes sure, against all reason, that I possess no pro-Audi bias.
You already know the results of such an article. In response to the critique, Americans would quickly turn away from the Q3, and inventory at Audi dealers would surely build up as customers cancelled their orders.
Or, the Audi Q3 would break its own U.S. sales record in April and then break that record again in May.
A week during which I recently spent driving an Audi Q3 clarified once and for all that, against everything pointing to the contrary, there’s not a bone of pro-Audi bias in my lanky frame.
My father didn’t claim that his handful of Audi 5000 Turbo Quattros — including a couple beige examples — and his red Audi Coupe were the absolute best driver’s cars, but he never wanted to drive what everybody else was driving. No BMWs, no Benzes, no Lincolns.
All five of us kids loved those Audis. One of my older brothers and I would pretend that the unbuckled middle seatbelt attachment was a microphone as we called the race home between Bobby Rahal in the Chevrolet Celebrity alongside, Emerson Fittipaldi in the Ford Taurus up ahead, and our dad in the Audi. And what a race it was. Mr. Cain didn’t take it slow until the four-cylinder Subaru bug bit 15 years later.
With all my childhood experience in five hard-driven Audis, you may forgive the natural eventuality, that in my career as a full-time auto writer, I wouldn’t be able to escape a pro-Audi bias. I’m only human, right?
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?
March was the highest-volume U.S. sales month in the Audi A3’s decade-long history. Never before had the A3 topped the 3000-unit mark, but March volume climbed to 3081 sales, equal to 18% of Audi USA’s volume last month.
Year-over-year comparisons for the A3 are all but completely invalid, as a hiatus between the departure of the A3 hatchback and the current A3 sedan resulted in a three-month-long sales-free period between November 2013 and January 2014. That period was followed by only 863 sales during the new A3’s first two months of February and March 2014.
2015’s first-quarter was, however, the best quarter yet for the new A3 despite the fact that January-March is the slowest period of the year for auto sales in the United States.
In the span of two months, the BMW X1 went from possessing no true direct German competition to finding challengers on two fronts.
That’s not to say the X1 was never a viable, though slightly smaller, challenger to the rivals of BMW’s own X3. But the X1 was sitting on the bottom rung of the ladder, and it’s no longer resting their on its own.
Audi sales in the United States grew 14%, or 1852 units, in September 2014, the first full month of sales for the Q3, Audi’s new entry-level crossover.
The Q3, along with Audi’s entry-level sedan, the A3, contributed 3425 more sales to the Audi ledger than they did a year ago, when the Q3 didn’t exist in America and the A3 hatchback (seven September 2013 sales) was on its way out.
The maths are simple. Non-A3/Q3 sales at Audi dropped 12% in September, a loss of 1573 units.
This isn’t exactly trouble in paradise. Month after month after month, Audi dealers in the United States are selling more cars. The current streak of year-over-year monthly sales increases dates back to January 2011.
Even though I tipped the Audi Q3 to win the compact crossover sales race, a story in Automotive News highlights another problem that Mercedes, and other luxury brands, could face: a lack of inventory.
For all of Hyundai’s successes in Europe, it is conspicuously absent in perhaps the lone major growth segment on the continent; small crossovers. We’re not talking “small” in the sense of the Hyundai Tucson either. Think more along the lines of the Opel Mokka (our Buick Encore), the Ford EcoSport and the Dacia Duste r. Even premium brands are getting into the fold, with the BMW X1, Audi Q3 and the upcoming Mercedes-Benz GLA vying for market share.
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