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Audi eyes TT Sportback as niche onslaught continues

Niche building: Audi is looking at expanding its iconic TT line with a possible production version of the four-door Sportback that was revealed at last year’s Paris motor show.

Ingolstadt’s catalogue set to expand as Audi looks to a brave new retail world

Audi logo14 May 2015

A PHILOSOPHY of building the cars that people want to drive means that Audi will continue to mine its current range for ever-finer segment busters, possibly including a four-door TT.

Audi Australia general manager of corporate communications Anna Burgdorf told GoAuto at the RS6/RS7 launch in Victoria this week that niches provide a fantastic opportunity for customers to buy a car that perfectly suits their requirements.

“We’re going to build cars that customers want to buy and drive, and that’s the most important thing for us,” she said.

“Consumer buying behaviour is changing rapidly and dramatically, and far faster than it has before. Whilst cars are a much bigger capital item, and the purchase cycle is much longer, customers are thinking about that one particular thing that suits their life, where they want to be and what they want to do with that vehicle.”

Ms Burgdorf pointed to a significant upcoming launch for the company as an example of the thinking behind the strategy.

“The new Q7 that’s coming is a fantastic vehicle – but what’s coming after that?” she said. “We’ve got a brand new TT, and there will be a TT and a TT RS, but we’ve also potentially talked about what’s the possibility for a TT Sportback. If there’s customer demand, and there’s a business case for that vehicle around the world, then we’ll consider making it.”

The TT was shown in a concept Sportback form at the 2014 Paris Show, while discussion around an SUV version, known as the TTQ, has also been aired.

The TTQ may well take the place of the Sportback idea, given the growth of the premium compact SUV category, and is likely to share engineering with the next-generation Q3 that’s set to debut in 2017.

Ms Burgdorf said that there has been local interest in the idea of a four-door TT.

“There has been interest and questions (about the TT Sportback) from the dealer network,” she confirmed. “I think the TT is a great example the idea of a TT with four doors hasn’t really come before, but there’s been interest, yeah.

“I don’t know if it would become massive volume, but if customers want to be able to buy that car then we should offer it.”

While Ms Burgdorf did not single out a model that might be underperforming in Audi’s current line up, she pointed to a particular body type that has gone off the boil for Australian customers.

“There just isn’t as much call for three door vehicles in a Australia,” she said, “Which is why we don’t offer a three-door A1 or a three-door A3 anymore.

“Manual vehicles, too we offer quite a reasonable range of manual options in our range but there’s so little demand for it that we often just offer it as an order-only (option).

“If people want to drive a manual, it’s not our decision to say ‘no you can’t’.

As a premium brand, we should offer it – but perhaps not as a part of our everyday range of vehicles.”

Despite cars like A7 and A8 recording low sales numbers of late – 35 and 25 respectively for the first four months of the year – Ms Burgdorf denied that any vehicles would be deleted from the local line-up in the near future.

“I don’t think there is a vehicle that is underperforming to the point where we’d wipe it off our range, but we are listening to customer feedback,” she said.

Ms Burgdorf reacted coolly to the idea that Mercedes-Benz was looking to develop a TT-like rival.

“Bring it on! If Mercedes-Benz wants to build a car that’s as iconic and successful as the TT, then competition is always a good thing,” she said. “If people don’t want to follow you, then you’re not being a good leader.”

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