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Audi heads to front of the Q

Form a Q: Audi's line-up of Q-badged SUVs will get a shot in the arm next year with the arrival of the diminutive Q2 in the first quarter.

Q7 and next-gen Q5 SUVs expected to top their respective segments for Audi

16 Mar 2016

AUDI Australia is eyeing segment leadership for its expanding Q7 range and forthcoming second-generation Q5, with the company expecting further growth from its expanding line of Q-badged SUVs.

The second-gen Q7 seven-seat SUV arrived in showrooms in September last year and quickly made its presence felt in the premium large-SUV segment against the big-hitting BMW X5, the updated Mercedes-Benz GLE and Land Rover's ageing Discovery.

In the first two months of this year, Audi has sold 733 Q7s in Australia – a 213 per cent increase over the same period in 2015 when the previous-generation model was in run-out – against 705 X5s, 570 examples of the Discovery and 447 GLEs.

Since the model's launch in 2006, the Q7 has captured between 1100-1400 sales per year, but in 2015 Audi sold 2045 units – the Q7's best haul to date – on the back of strong sales of the all-new model in the final quarter, particularly in November and December.

Despite the big finish in 2015, the Q7 still ended the year well behind its competitors such as the segment-leading BMW X5 (4181), Land Rover Discovery (2915), Range Rover Sport (2861), combined sales of the Mercedes ML and its GLE replacement (2559) and even the Volkswagen Touareg (2568).

The strong sales result for the Q7 since launch is from just one variant – the 200kW 3.0 TDI – but with the arrival this month of the entry level 160kW 3.0 TDI as well as the already confirmed SQ7 high-performance model and e-tron plug-in hybrid in the next six to 12 months, the car-maker is expecting ongoing growth.

Despite the strong competition from its bullish European rivals, Audi Australia senior product planning executive Matthew Dale said the car-maker was targeting higher sales than the old model and was aiming to retain the number one position it has captured in the first two months of 2016.

“Our target would be obviously at least 100 units on the previous car per month, at least double that,” he said.

“But I think given the new entry point with the 160kW, the strong sales of the already launched 200kW, the new models that will be coming within the next year (SQ7, e-tron), speaking in volume terms, we are targeting number one in the segment with really strong product offerings with a complete range as such.” The next model down in the Q range, the Q5, is due to be replaced soon and will likely show up later this year, possibly at the Paris motor show.

Since its launch in early 2009 the Q5 has outsold its rivals – BMW's X3, Land Rover's now discontinued Freelander, the Range Rover Evoque and the Volvo XC60 – every year, but the segment debut of Mercedes' instantly popular GLC in December has shaken things up in the premium mid-size SUV sector.

In its first month on sale, the GLC outsold everything in the segment with 605 units shifted and in the first two months of 2016 it has racked up 1123 sales, nearly tripling the Q5 (419), while easily beating the Land Rover Discovery Sport (770), BMW X3 (664), Volvo XC60 (403) and Lexus NX (517).

Mr Dale said that Audi Australia is not daunted by the runaway success of the GLC and expects that when the new Q5 eventually arrives that it will re-take the crown as the best-selling premium mid-size high-rider.

“The Q5 at the moment is at the end of its model life cycle so given there will be a new product coming and the success that it has had in the current model, we will definitely be targeting to reclaim that position,” he said.

As for the potential to add a larger SUV to sit above the Q7 and compete with the Range Rover, Mercedes' GLS and BMW's promised X7, Mr Dale said it was unlikely for now.

“We would never say never but Q7 at the moment is great for larger families – three or more children – if the market does call for a larger SUV, sure there might be an opportunity there but at the moment it is Q7 as the largest.” With BMW and Mercedes having success in the SUV-coupe segment with the X6/X4 and GLE Coupe, Mr Dale said that if Audi produced such a model, the company would definitely be interested in offering it in Australia.

“They (BMW, Mercedes) have pretty strong customer bases for those cars so if Audi AG in Germany decides to build something that was comparative to that we would certainly raise our hands to offer it in this market just given the customer base at the moment of our competitors.” The Q line-up is set to expand early in 2017 with the arrival of the sub-compact Q2 crossover that will sit under the Q3.

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