Audi’s U.S. Diesel Strategy: An Interview with Wayne Killen

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JS:       What’s Audi’s strategy now?

WK:    We are bullish on TDI growth and you’ll see more models and higher output applications.  Audi’s strategy [is really] to change people’s thinking on [diesel].  You’ve seen some of our advertisements, we are repositioning diesel in a very different light. We won’t issue reminders of what it used to be; it’s all upside and very little downside. We have to get people thinking it’s better, it sounds like a regular car. You get into an Audi, you get the performance and handling, quattro is there.  Yes, there might be a slight surcharge but that’s something that’s evened out at the pump.

JS:       What about the cost of diesel fuel going up?

WK:    Our number one concern about clean diesel is the price of fuel and the second is fuel availability.  Currently, less than half of the stations carry diesel.  As we introduce more and more people to diesel, the infrastructure becomes more of an issue.  Biodiesel is also an issue.  It’s not even a B10, now it’s B20. Current engine technology is not really set up for these blends.

JS:       You’re also the A8 product manager.  Tell us about the A8 TDI.

WK:    The A8 will have a revised V-6. It will have more horsepower and further refinements in technology.  Key points are more power and a significant increase in torque.

JS:       So diesel is clearly a big element of Audi’s future.

WK:    For Audi, diesel is here to stay for the foreseeable future.  We want to see diesel grow in the U.S. and we think Audi will be at the front of the line in, bringing in compelling models that offer better fuel economy.  It’s the new Audi DNA.  We’ve been offering diesels since 1989 and we have 4.5 million on the road globally.  It [diesel] will be as much of a mainstay as quattro is today.    We’d like to bring the four-cylinder TDI engine into more vehicles as well.  Nothing is confirmed but this is something we’d like to do.

JS:       Parting thoughts?

WK:    Diesel is for buyers who want to keep and preserve the traditional performance that they’ve had from Audi while using less fuel.  There’s momentum building for TDI in general.  It’s a cool technology with very little downside.

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