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Compact Q3 Crossover May Be The Secret Of Audi’s Success

Since April, Audi's compact crossover, the Q3, has been a success story. Indeed, it may be the real secret to the automaker's continuing record of success this year.
Posted: September 13, 2016 - 6:34PM
Author: Marc Stern

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Although it is an oxymoron to say this, it is nevertheless true; crossover sales are as hot as a target pistol in a turkey shoot. Crossovers have decimated the general sedan segment, fairly well flattening it, except for some specialty models.

When Buick introduced its Enclave – what some would call the current original crossover -- four model years ago, no one – not even Ouija board experts – would have predicted the results of that introduction. In the space of four years, crossovers have gone from a niche to a leading market segment. Sales of crossovers have gone mainstream, eclipsing sedans as the vehicles of choice for many buyers.

Strongest Crossover Segment

Right now, the strongest piece of the crossover market is among compacts. Indeed, if a carmaker doesn’t have a strong contender either in production or about to drop, then it is likely hustling like crazy to make one appear as soon as possible. And, those automakers whose compact crossover supplies are constrained are rushing to find ways to increase numbers to take the pressure off.

For the last two years, it has been pretty much gospel that Audi’s Q3 was vastly underresourced. The numbers just weren’t available from the Seat manufacturing plant in Martorell, Spain, to meet the U.S. demand. This year, though, the situation has changed as Audi has shaken loose higher product numbers for the U.S. In turn, this has meant dealers have more product to sell, and this has resulted in an explosion of sales with the Q3 becoming a market leader.

Says veteran Audi retailer Devin Carlson, general manager of Audi Stuart in Florida: “It’s really just the car getting its due attention. I was surprised it didn’t happen sooner.” The Q3, he told Automotive News Monday, is a sporty, attractive and high-tech competitor to the M-B GLA, BMW X1 and Lexus NX, which dominates the premium compact crossover market.

Nationally, the Q3 has been a shot-in-the-arm for Audi. Because the Seat plant in Matorell, Spain, where the compact crossover is built, has been able to shake free extra units for the U.S., the automaker has had more product available for dealers. The result has been a huge uptick in sales of the compact crossover since the added supply became available in April.

Secret Of Q3’s Success

Thiemo Rusch, Audi’s top sales operations manager, credits Q3’s success with not only the recent boost in production but also the shift in demand to crossovers. "We got the right production to support true demand, and the customers are shifting heavily into SUVs," he told Automotive News.

Rusch also noted that about 70 percent of their sales mix is from first-time buyers who are new to Audi – conquest sales. Conquest sales may even grow in 2017 as product and marketing changes may have an even stronger effect than they have, as the new model year has dawned. Along with planned model changes, Audi has introduced a new entry-level model trim, Premium. The new trim level effectively drops the price of the Q3 from $34,615 (2016) to $32,750, including shipping. It gives “more chances to conquest even more new customers to the Audi brand," he concluded.

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