Audi’s Bottom End SUV

Gary S. Vasilash

This is a proposed drawing of the Audi Q1, a compact SUV that is going into production at the Audi plant in Ingolstadt in 2016:

Audi Q1

Stated Rupert Stadler, chairman of the board of management of Audi AG, “The Audi Q1 is part of our broad-based SUV strategy.” As of right now, the strategy comprises the Audi Q3, RS Q3, Q5, SQ5, and Q7. And the strategy is paying off handsomely, as SUVs should account for approximately 28% of Audi’s global sales in 2013.

Of the models, the Q5 leads. The company will build some 230,000 Q5s in 2013, which is more than half the number of all Q models to be built this year.

Audi SQ5 2014 Audi SQ5

Stadler continued about the Q1, “It is designed on the basis of the modular transverse engine concept and will round off our Q series at the bottom end.”

That last phrase—“at the bottom end”—ought to raise some red flags among those who debate the meaning of “luxury,” a characteristic that Audi is aggressively working to associate itself with.

The Q3 isn’t yet available in the U.S. The Q5 is, of course. And its base MSRP is $37,300. It is estimated that when the Q3 comes, the starting price will be in the $33,000 vicinity. Which might mean that the Q1, were it ever to come to the U.S., would be below $30,000. Is that the price for a luxury car, especially an SUV?

The Ingolstadt plant is where the A3, A3 Sportback, and the A4/A5 are produced. The company’s A and B segment cars. This provides a sense of size for the Q1.

Audi has a goal of selling more than two million cars per year by 2020, and it is going to achieve that, in part, by expanding its product offerings from 49 to more than 60 models. Last year it shipped 1,455,123 vehicles, so it is working toward a big gain.

Will the company keep a laser-like focus on its premium qualities, or will it be about the bottom end?