There’s no doubt that car reviewer Doug DeMuro commands a considerable audience on on Youtube. Doug holds an interesting space and a lot of influence in the lexicon of car journalists, and so when he calls out Audi it’s certainly worth taking note. Today he did in his first op/ed style video, and many of our members noticed.
Spoiler alert, Doug rants mostly on the lack of availability of S and RS variants in the US market. He draws an interesting comparison. With the exception of the smallest of models like the Mercedes-Benz A-class, Audi’s chief German luxury rivals bring over most any of their performance M and AMG models.
That’s true Doug. You’re right on that count and we wish Audi brought over more. We wholeheartedly agree on your wish for the RS 6 Avant… and they don’t do a sedan of that in Europe either (worth noting as you lament the lack of RS 4 sedan in Europe in your piece).
All that said, we think we can give you some better perspective on Audi’s position in the market. Ten years ago, Audi sold 87,760 cars in the USA. That was compared to BMW at 249,113 and Mercedes-Benz at 225,009. Quite obviously, it was seriously lagging its competitors by selling less than half… and less than half by a fair margin.
Last year Audi sold 226,511 (+7.8%) compared to BMW’s 305,685 (-2.4%) and Mercedes-Benz’ 375,311 (-1.4%). As you can see, it’s made up some serious ground in those last ten years. While 2018 numbers aren’t finalized just yet, Audi had also been continuing a multi-year run of month-over-month record sales through September when supply issues caused a slight decline since that time. Even still, if it matched its December 2017 numbers, Audi would nose out its 2017 sales by a hair. Impressive.
Those sales need to be stated in order to answer Doug’s question. Audi’s longterm sales over the past decade reveal a brand that simply didn’t have the volume to bestow it with budgets for the expensive federalization process. While model proliferation was necessary, they had to be more strategic in their decision-making. Many Avants (wagons in Audi speak) were axed or changed in order to sell better.
The A6 and S6 Avants are gone, but the A7, S7 and then RS 7 replaced them… and sold markedly better than the Avants they replaced would have. The S4 Avant went away, and that models’ federalization budget likely went to the SQ5… because crossovers sell bucketloads… and then as volume grew we got S5 Sportback. The A4 Avant switched to A4 allroad, because any example of a sport-utility inspired wagon selling next to a regular wagon in this market shows that the sport-utility inspired equivalent sells better.
As a business case, the numbers suggest it was a highly effective strategy. Audi picked up volume at a rate its chief German rivals simply could not. While it still lags in total sales volume, the gap has closed markedly. And, arguably, it did so with much less discounting than those rivals and so presumably at a greater profit.
As an enthusiast, let’s be frank. It’s no fun watching rivals have all those performance models when Audi does not. That being said, that greater volume is beginning to help Audi. This year we got the RS 5 Sportback. Next year we’ll get S6 sedan and S7, and likely SQ7, SQ8 and RS Q8. Those last three will sell abundantly, because this is America and America buys crossovers. Most likely, an SQ3 and RS Q3 will follow not far behind after the very impressive new Q3 comes to market.
As for Avants. We hear A6 allroad is approved and expect it in the next 12-15 months. Contacts inside suggest the RS 6 Avant isn’t far behind, and we know of a few club members who have standing deposits at their dealers based on that intel. We’ve got our fingers crossed, and we believe betting on you having the ability to buy the next RS 6 Avant in the USA wouldn’t be a terribly unsafe bet to make… though we’ve waited so long for that one that we’ll hold our breath until we see the press release confirming that it’s a done deal.
So there you have it Doug. Keep on doing what you’re doing. We enjoy watching it. Thanks for making Audi your first focus for an op/ed story. Sounds like you care as much about the brand as we do.
Finally, we hope you enjoy our header pic. It’s a matte brown RS 6 Avant posted by the Audi Forum Neckarsulm in Germany. We found it while surfing today and couldn’t think of a good reason to use it in a story. Then, we saw your video and heard you mention brown wagons and so it just seemed fitting.