Brand can’t support small cars in U.S.

Posted on 19 March, 2009

Audi longs to join Mercedes-Benz and BMW in the luxury big league in the United States, but its brand isn’t strong enough yet to support selling small cars such as the A1 in the U.S., says Audi’s global sales and marketing boss, Peter Schwarzenbauer.

And he ruled out a separate small-car brand similar to Mercedes’ Smart or BMW’s Mini.

Audi is engaged in an aggressive campaign in the U.S. market to build brand awareness. Until that takes hold, Audi won’t be bringing small cars such as the A1 to the United States, Schwarzenbauer told Automotive News this month at the Geneva auto show.

The A1, which goes on sale in Europe in 2010, is about 10 inches shorter than the smallest Audi sold in the United States, the A3. Schwarzenbauer said Audi is “looking seriously” at bringing the A1 to America.

But he remains unconvinced that U.S. consumers are ready to embrace small cars, especially ones with big price tags.

“If you look at Mini or Smart, you say, ‘Yeah, maybe.’ On the other hand, if you look at the real numbers, it’s not huge volumes,” Schwarzenbauer said.

“I’m not so sure yet we really see a trend to small cars in the United States.”