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Performance, variety key to Audi A4 family
Audi to stem medium sedan exodus with breadth of A4 offerings that includes wagon
4 Jun 2018
AUDI will rely more heavily on S and RS sports models, as well as less traditional versions of its broader A4 range such as the A5, as it attempts to reverse declining sales of its one-time bestseller in Australia in the face of increasingly popular SUV alternatives.
Speaking to GoAuto at the launch of the RS4 Avant wagon flagship model in Armidale, New South Wales late last month, Audi Australia senior product planning executive Peter Strudwicke said that while sales of the core A4 sedan and Avant versions have slipped significantly over the last 12 months, the slack has been taken up by related offshoots such as the A5 Sportback five-door.
Furthermore, though conceding that SUVs such as the brand’s bestselling Q5 are on track to become even more dominant across the board moving forward, he also believes that variants such as the high-performance RS4 Avant will have a halo effect on the rest of the B9-series range that includes all sedans, wagons, liftbacks, coupes and convertibles underneath the respective A4 and A5 nameplates.
“The medium sedan segment is shrinking overall,” Mr Strudwicke admitted. “But the A4 is still a very important car for us, despite the trend towards SUVs. It’s not going to suddenly drop off peoples’ radar.
“What we’re focussing on is obviously where the strengths lie in the segment, and we know that the performance models generally are stronger in terms of market share.
“Plus, the A4 has another attractive four-door offering in the A5 Sportback, and so there is always some crossover inevitably. And even though the Sportback is priced a little bit differently, some people are walking up from the sedan and realising they can have something different for only a little bit more.
“And don’t forget that Audi started that whole Sportback thing with the first A5 Sportback, and that’s why there’s the RS5 Sportback coming … it was very influential move by us.”
Year-to-date sales show that the A4 is down nearly 45 per cent while the more recent A5 Sportback is up nearly 180 per cent. Combined, their tally to the end of April is 713, which is still down by 20 per cent on the 896 units recorded over the same period last year.
In contrast, the recently launched second-generation Q5 has managed nearly 1500 registrations for a 111 per cent upswing, in a class that has jumped 16 per cent so far in 2018.
Mr Strudwicke added that his team are working on several actions to keep interest in the A4 bubbling.
“We have a number of strategies in place through the lifecycle of the vehicle to ensure that (sales remain buoyant),” he said.
“We’re always monitoring what’s happening in all the segments all the time … and we’ve done things in terms of updates such as extra value equipment on quattro models … things like that are implementing to keep interest in the car going.
“For example, we’ve recently introduced an ‘S-Line Black Package’ which has a sort of sporty S4 look. A4 buyers respond really well to these sorts of things.”
While Mr Strudwicke admits that the A4 Avant does seem vulnerable in the face of the relentless SUV sales steamroller, it will stay in the range for the foreseeable future, especially as it currently manages to account for up to 33 per cent of all A4 volume.
“The A4 wagons are definitely staying – buyer loyalty for our wagons remains really strong … something like a 33/66 sales split with the sedan,” he said. “And cars like the new RS4 Avant flagship really renews the interest in all our wagons.
“In fact, in general, diversity in our range is one of our strong points that we can offer customers. We’re launching three RS models in the same segment, within a 12-month period. Look at the RS5 Coupe, RS4 Avant and RS5 Sportback. OK, they’re different parts of the segment, but they’re also a similar size.
“It’s about having different offerings that tailor to different customers.”
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