In what some are seeing as a sign of better times ahead for premium automakers, Audi announced that its sales were up by 1.3% year-on-year in June. The German automaker points to higher demand, both domestically and in China, for the improved figures. The German government’s ‘cash for clunkers’ initiative is also credited for increased domestic sales of the Audi A3 compact model. Total new car sales for Audi reached 91,200 during last month.
Audi’s head of sales, Peter Schwarzenbauer, asserts that Audi sales have been improving since April and echoes the cautiously optimistic outlook voiced by other German luxury automakers that the worst may now be behind them.
In the first six months of 2009 Audi sales had dropped 9.7% off of last year’s sales during the same period and the automaker predicted a 10% annual decline at the Detroit Auto Show this past January. Schwarzenbauer recently commented, ‘We will finish on target ‘ achieving our sales forecast of 900,000 cars in 2009,’ and added ‘We have been right on track over the first six months, and the current level of incoming orders serves to confirm our prognosis.’
Audi’s chief domestic competitors in the luxury car sector, Daimler and BMW, recently announced increased production at some of their domestic production facilities. For BMW and Daimler, however, June sales figures for their mainstay models were down by 13% and 5.4% respectively. Daimler CEO, Dieter Zetsche, however has announced plans to increase production and increase factory worker’s hours.
Premium automakers, including Audi, were hit hard early in the current economic downturn as nervous consumers began buying less expensive, more fuel efficient vehicles. Most luxury car makers have also not benefitted significantly from state-sponsored incentive programs designed to entice consumers to scrap their older, higher emissions autos for newer models with higher fuel efficiency and lower emissions ratings. However, mass market manufacturers of smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles who have benefitted from the programs are expected to face a steep drop in sales once the programs are phased out over the coming months.
Schwarzenbauer predicts that Audi will continue to see a ‘slight growth’ trend over the next few years but expects that it could take an additional two to three years for Audi to again reach its annual record of 1 million units sold in 2008.
Arndt Ellignhorst, an analyst for financial services company Credit Suisse, concurs that, “2010 is going to be another tough year for the car industry as a whole,’ but adds, ‘I am optimistic for the premium carmakers.”