Audi’s U.S. Diesel Strategy: An Interview with Wayne Killen
In the next year or so, virtually every Audi model sold in the United States ranging from the compact A3 to the full-sized A8, will be available with a diesel engine.
Currently, only the A3 and the Q7 are available as oilburners, but starting in 2013 we will see diesel versions of the A6, A8, and Q5, followed by the next-generation Audi A4 TDI.
Today in the U.S., only four automakers (five if you count Porsche, which will start selling the Cayenne Diesel in September of this year) offer diesels, namely Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Volkswagen. Between the four, they offer a total of 14 models. More and more automakers are announcing diesels (expect a Volkswagen Beetle diesel before the end of the summer and a Cadillac ATS diesel in 2013).
To better understand Audi’s plans, I sat with Wayne Killen, head of product strategy for Audi, to discuss diesel. Killen is clearly very enthusiastic when it comes to diesels and I didn’t have to say much to get him started.
Jonathan Spira: You’re not really using the “hybrid” word here much. Your message is clearly focused on diesel.
Wayne Killen: Obviously, we have had a great running start with TDI (Turbocharged Direct Injection, Volkswagen Group’s trademark for its turbodiesel engines) and the two models we currently offer, the A3 TDI and the Q7 TDI. This will grow in 2013 with the addition of the A8 TDI, A6 TDI, and the Q5 TDI. The Q5 hybrid will be coming in the latter part of next year and it will be our first foray into hybrid, but the strong message is TDI.
JS: How have sales been?
WK: We sold over 7000 diesels in 2011, a 6% share. Obviously that trend will continue.
JS: Why does Audi think that Americans are more ready for diesel than for hybrid?
WK: I was just looking at the JD Powers 2011 U.S. Green Automotive Study and it’s fairly bullish on diesel in general. When asked if a buyer would definitely or probably consider a diesel, plug-in, or hybrid for his next car, diesel came in at 31%, plug-in at 35%, and hybrid at 50%. That’s a strong indication that buyers are raising their hands and see the advantages that these cars have in terms of power and efficiency.