Audi’s new generation lighter and slipperier A4 sedan will go on sale in the U.S. early next year, although the company won’t yet say exactly when.
Like most new Audis the new A4 looks remarkably like the old one, with an obvious desire to produce a vehicle that looks classy and understated. The first model available to U.S. buyers will be the 2.0 liter, 252 hp gasoline four-wheel drive version. Audi wasn’t releasing any more details, but expect prices to start close to $38,000 and options to include a six-speed manual gearbox or an eight-speed automatic. Buyers of the A4 will have forsaken choices like the Jaguar XE, Cadillac ATS, Lexus IS, Mercedes C class and BMW 3 and 4 series, Alfa Romeo Giulia, Acura TLX and Volvo S60.
The headline claim for the A4 by Audi is its reduced weight – down by 242 lbs – and its low drag which will enhance fuel economy. European engine choices range from four to six cylinders with power from 148 hp to 268 hp, both gasoline and diesel. There aren’t any electric or plug-in hybrids announced yet, but the engine range includes what Audi calls a revolutionary combustion system. In-car technology options include the Audi virtual cockpit, traffic-jam assist, rear cross-traffic assist, collision avoidance assist and turn assist.
According to IHS Automotive, Audi will offer a diesel powered A4 in 2017, although it recognizes that the situation in the U.S. is “fluid” after the VW “dieselgate” scandal. Audi is owned by VW, and its smaller A3 was implicated in the diesel scandal. But bigger diesel engines used in the A4 are not included in the controversy because they all use more expensive Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) and AdBlue technology. VW engines implicated in the “defeat” EPA scandal used so-called NOx traps to cut nitrogen oxide emissions rather than the more expensive SCR technology. IHS Automotive said sales of the old A4 were around 30,000 a year from 2010 through 2014, and expects sales of the new one to increase by about 10,000 a year.
“The situation is fluid and still developing,” said Stephanie Brinley, IHS Auto senior analyst.
Before the dieselgate crisis struck, Audi accounted for 30 per cent of VW’s stock market value although it only provided about 17 per cent of sales volume. Given VW’s huge dive in value on stock markets, expect those figures to show a huge increase in its dependence on Audi. Audi’s EBIT (earnings before interest and tax) profit margin was 9.6 per cent in 2014. Some bankers expect this to accelerate to 10.5 per cent in 2017 from 2015’s slightly lower 9.5 per cent and 10.0 per cent in 2016. This compares with the VW brand profit margin which is likely to slip into the read in the current quarter. BMW was the leading premium brand in the U.S. in 2014, with sales of 340,000, Mercedes was second at 330,000, Lexus third with 311,000, and Audi fourth with 182,000 ahead of Cadillac (170,000).