In January Audi will introduce in Detroit the next generation of Q7. The SUV will also have a e-tron Quattro plug-in hybrid Diesel version. The Q7 is aimed mainly at the markets in the United States and China (in Europe the big SUV segment is decreasing). However these are markets where the use of Diesel has never been accepted. Wouldn’t a petrol plug-in hybrid have been better? All the more since in the Us the price per gallon of petrol has fallen below the threshold of $3?
I have put these questions to Luca De Meo, member of the Board and head of Marketing and Sales at Audi, whom I met at Audi City Lab, opened by the Germans in Via Montenapoleone in Milan. “ You are wrong. Diesel in the States has become cool” was his answer. De Meo’s opinion is that prejudice against Diesel in the States has been dropped and travelling in a Diesel car is starting to be trendy.
In actual fact the figures seem to indicate the opposite: according to Nada ( National Automobile Dealers Association) from the beginning of the year 42.324 Diesel vehicles were sold out of the14.936.682 total in the States. Although Diesel cars have grown 10.8% their share is just under 3%.
It is true that what is cool doesn’t necessarily have to do with figures but it is not that simple: even though Audi has grown 15.4% from the beginning of the year it is fighting Cadillac for fourth place in the premium segment and is behind Lexus. The aim is to reach 200.000 units by 2020. It is here that Audi, leader in Europe and China is running the race of the premium industry supremacy and the reinforcement of its image. To do it (also) with a Diesel engine is a brave choice. Or is it a gamble?