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New York show: Audi Sport to take flight

High hopes: New Quattro CEO Stephan Winkelmann said Audi Sport sales will eventually catch up to the popular Mercedes-AMG and BMW M and M Performance rivals.

Former Lambo boss Winkelmann says Audi Sport brand to ‘catch’ Mercedes-AMG, BMW M

24 Mar 2016


THE newly formed Audi Sport performance sub-brand could become as popular as its arch-rivals – Mercedes-AMG and BMW M – according to Quattro GmbH chief executive Stephan Winkelmann.

Up until recently the president and CEO of Automobili Lamborghini, Mr Winkelmann told reporters at the New York motor show overnight that while he has only just commenced in the role, he has strong ambitions for the Audi Sport sub-brand.

“It depends on you, it depends on how much you (journalists) beat the drum,” he said. “This is a journey we have to start, and at the beginning it will be a bit bumpy but I think we have a lot of opportunities and with a good strategy we can catch them all.

“So it depends on us how fast we are going have awareness and image for this brand. The base is there, there are great products, the RS models and R8 is an outstanding product so we have everything to build up the brand – we have to tell the story, the strategy and then it will fly, I am sure about that.”

Audi Sport encompasses all performance variants of Audi models, including S and spicier RS vehicles as well as the R8, which was unveiled in Spyder guise at the New York show.

Asked if there was a possibility of a standalone Audi Sport-branded four-door sedan or SUV unrelated to any existing model, Mr Winkelmann simply said: “We will surprise you in the years to come.”

Mr Winkelmann’s appointment to the top job at Quattro GmbH – a 100 per cent subsidiary of Audi AG – was only announced a month ago, but he brings 11 years’ experience as head of the VW-owned Lamborghini marque to the position.

“What I can bring is my experience in a super-sportscar company, but other than that, now it is too early. Give me the time to adjust and work on this company and we will be back to not only you, but all the press,” he said.

Asked how the car-maker can still produce large, powerful engines in an age of downsizing and emissions regulations, Mr Winkelmann said Audi and Lamborghini were successful in developing high-performance, efficient powertrains – and that there was more to come.

“One thing is clear. Even if we produce high-performance cars, the emissions are going down so this is one of the commitments we always had and I can speak for Lamborghini at this stage because this is my knowledge, my past,” he said.

“But also knowing the line-up at Audi, they always work a lot to reduce the emissions and this is just the beginning.”

Joining Lamborghini in 2005 after rising through the ranks of the Fiat Group, Mr Winkelmann is credited with more than doubling Lamborghini’s sales over the past decade – passing 3000 units for the first time last year (to 3245), including 84 in Australia – and more than tripling turnover.

The global retail network also tripled under his watch to encompass 135 dealers in 50 countries, including four in Australia.

German rival Mercedes-AMG sold 68,875 units globally last year, representing a new sales record, while BMW sold about 63,000 M or M Performance-badged models.

Audi has some way to go to catch up to its Munich and Affalterbach-based competitors, shifting about 17,000 R8 and RS models last year. It is unclear how many S variants found homes in 2015.

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