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Audi Q3 to be niche

Nice niche: The Audi Q3 is expected to draw inspiration from the Audi Cross Coupe concept.

Audi’s coming baby SUV will be not be a threat to its larger Q5 and Q7 stablemates

15 May 2009

AUDI has revealed that the upcoming Q3 SUV will be a niche model slotted under the Q5 in both size and sales volumes when it arrives in 2011.

Believed to be based on a variation of the Volkswagen Tiguan’s Golf-derived transverse engine platform that also underpins the A3 small car range, the Q3 will be a more specialised image leader for Audi, and that it is unlikely to steal sales from the brand’s larger Q5 and Q7 SUVs.

Globally, the latter has started to suffer a significant sales slide as the newer Q5, introduced in 2008 and only just released in Australia, ascends as the dominant SUV in Audi’s stable.

Age, diminishing buyer bases during these economically depressed times, and consumer tastes shifting from conspicuously large and expensive SUVs are beginning to undermine the gargantuan Audi.

So rather than provide yet another in-house rival for the Q7, speculation suggests that Audi’s smallest SUV will trade heavily on its crossover appeal, meaning that it is being prepared as the Ingolstadt firm’s all-out assault on BMW’s niche Mini range, with an emphasis on the forthcoming 2010 Mini Crossover 4x4.

This time, Audi does not want to be left out in the cold as BMW taps into yet another potentially blockbuster sub-segment, as it has been since 2001 when the Mini was spectacularly reborn.

7 center imageFrom top: The Audi Cross Coupe concept, Audi Q5, Audi Q7.

In both styling and name, the 2007 Shanghai motor show-stealing Cross Coupe concept is a clear indicator of just how targeted and off-beat the tiny SUV will be.

But the Q3 will not be alone in Audi’s quest for deep niche-within-a-niche exploration, as the even smaller A1 light car will pave the way as the littlest model yet to brandish the ringed quartet.

Due to be unveiled later next year or in early 2011, the A1 will have rivals like the Alfa Romeo MiTo and up-spec versions of the Fiat 500 in its crosshairs.

Audi has indicated that it may use the dynamic dinky duo to spearhead its electric vehicle program, to steal away the commanding presence of the Toyota Prius and other hybrid and electric rivals.

It is little wonder, then, that – according to Audi Australia managing director Joerg Hofmann – the Q3’s sheer ‘nicheness’ will limit its appeal, as well as its potential threat, against the Q5.

“We are definitely firmly investigating the Q3, and I believe we will be bringing this car to Australia,” he said.

“But, you still have to find the right position for the car. At the moment, I wouldn’t be too bullish on volumes there.” Mr Hofmann predicts that while the Q7 and Q5 appeal to lifestyle-focused family households of varying numbers and sizes, the Q3 will ultimately snag a different type of consumer.

“(With Q7 and Q5) I think we are pretty much covering the SUV segment at the moment in Australia.

“Now we have to ask ourselves: ‘what will the Q3 do to the whole thing?’“Because I’ve seen it, and it certainly is an interesting package, but the boot space is a bit limited. I believe if you have a family, the car may be a bit too small. If you want to have some luggage or whatever then I believe that it doesn’t really work.

“So, from this perspective, I would really believe that … from a volume priority the bestseller for us would be the Q5 … and then Q7 and then Q3.

“And from that perspective I believe that it may be like that all over the world, and therefore the production volume plan (of 80,000 units annually produced at SEAT’s Martorell facility in Spain) will work.”

Mr Hofmann confirmed that the Q3’s and A1’s responsibility as green technology leaders for Audi is being investigated.

“These models are very much an environmental focus of the company as well, because these cars will have low emissions and the latest-technology diesel engines, and we are even in discussions at the moment as to whether these cars will be the first electric Audi cars.

“So this is all going in the direction to have a really good environmental footprint, and therefore certainly smaller cars benefit from that direction very much ... so we are very happy to get these cars, and it could be electric cars from Audi sooner rather than later ... it is not confirmed but it is something for people to think about.”

Read more:

Official: Audi Q3 green light for 2011

First drive: Newest Audi Q-car hits Oz

New-model blitz edges Audi closer to domination

First look: Audi cleans up Q7

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