The Audi A3 is on fire in US showrooms. Not literally of course, that would be horrible, and the situation we're referring to is a good thing indeed, as the Four Rings has a serious hit on its hands with the compact luxury sedan. Looking at just its first three months on the market, the entry-level model is outselling the Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class by nearly two to one.
The CLA was one of the hottest new cars of last year. Mercedes even called it the company's best launch in 20 years, but it sees as if that early sales performance has not been sustainable. According to Bloomberg, the CLA has seen its sales drop year-over-year in seven of the last eight months, and the new A3 came at just the right time to fill that void.
In June, Mercedes shifted 1,658 CLAs in the US, compared to 2,452 for the A3. The Merc has sold more units so far this year but only because the Audi sedan has only been on sale for three full months. With the two cars being relatively comparable as compact, front-wheel-drive, German luxury sedans, it appears buyers prefer the Four Rings over the Mercedes star, so far at least.
The A3's popularity might be partially generational. According to Bloomberg, citing research from Autotrader, Millennials consider Audi as the brand that best reflects their personality, while Mercedes is ranked third. Audi doesn't want to allow its good image with young buyers to slide either, so it's marketing to them heavily with the sedan with events like targeted launch parties. It appears to be working, too. A company spokesperson recently told Autoblog that a little over 25 percent of the sedan's customers were 30-years-old or younger, compared to about 18 percent for the A4. The idea is that if the company can grab consumers early, then they may keep coming back later in life.
A couple weeks ago, J.D. Power released its latest Initial Quality Study, which gave high marks to Porsche, Hyundai and General Motors, with the latter earning more individual IQS awards than any other manufacturer. Now, it's Strategic Vision's turn, and it's doling out its praise not to Porsche, but to Tesla, which wasn't even included in the JD Power IQS.
The Model S was named the best vehicle overall in total quality, while Porsche's corporate brother and endurance-racing rival, Audi, was named the best premium brand, alongside Jaguar. Strategic Vision cited the Q5 and the ancient Q7 for individual segment awards, as well as the A5, which was a mere point off the top of its segment. SV also handed out compliments for the Audi's interior work. The win for the German brand is a nice improvement over its IQS score, with which it landed above the industry average, but solidly mid-pack.
Jaguar was without a segment winner, although SV did say that the Indian-owned English brand had a number of vehicles very near the top of their segments. This is the second significant win for Jag in two weeks, after it finished second overall on the JD Power IQS a few weeks ago.
In a surprise win, Kia took the title for mainstream manufacturers, with Strategic Vision calling out the Soul and the Optima for their "youthful, cool styling cues that not only make a strong statement but offer a solid foundation of quality." The South Korean brand took seventh in the JD Power IQS.
Notable segment winners include a few that left us scratching our heads, like the Mitsubishi Lancer tying the Dodge Dart for the best small car, and the Mini Cooper Roadster beating out the Mazda MX-5 Miata for the Standard Convertible segment. Others, though, were more predictable - the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray topped its segment, as did the Volkswagen Golf, Lexus IS and Mercedes-Benz SL.
While Strategic Vision calls this study its Total Quality Index, unlike JD Power, there's more to it than simple reliability. In addition to reliability, it also analyzes positive and negative experiences from consumers as they relate to problems with their vehicle, the driving experience and other, unnamed measures.
"Quality is much more than simply counting problems and watching for the horse race," Darrel Edwards, the founder and executive chairman of Strategic Vision, said in what seemed like a thinly veiled shot at JD Power. "When we declare Total Quality rankings, you're seeing results of something meaningful and predictive, which are the result of measuring what matters to the customer."
You can view the full press release from Strategic Vision below, which includes a complete listing of winners in each category.
Continue reading Audi, Jag, Kia and Tesla top Strategic Vision 2014 Total Quality Index
It's not particularly unusual to see cheap cars in China, or those with designs stolen from foreign competitors, but increasingly the best-selling vehicles there would be very recognizable to just about any auto enthusiast. There appears to be one fact of life whether looking at car buyers in Sacramento, Stuttgart or Shanghai: People who can afford to buy premium cars often look first at the Germans.
Honda recently thought that it could challenge this perceived wisdom by including a premium Accord in the ninth-generation sedan's Chinese launch last year. The market-exclusive version was priced against the Audi A4. The venture failed, miserably.
According to Automotive News China, sales for the new Accord in China are down 37 percent through May of this year. Honda's overall sales are actually up by about 11 percent there on the strength of smaller, less profitable models. However, the company is still off its forecast 19-percent rise.
It appears that Honda badly judged the Chinese market's appetite for Japanese cars. The recent political relationship between the two countries has been strained, to put things mildly, and it has skewed car sales. Protests in 2012 resulted in vandalism to Japanese cars and even temporarily closing of factories associated with the nation. The hard feelings haven't subsided, it seems. A study published in May of 2014 found that 51 percent of Chinese consumers surveyed would never consider buying a Japanese car.
With the Japanese automakers at a severe handicap, the Germans are flourishing. According to Automotive News China, the two best-selling midsize sedans in the country are the Volkswagen Passat and Passat-derived Magotan, and Audi is China's best selling premium brand. In fact, driving one is almost a requirement among government bureaucrats. It seems that just about no matter where you are in the world, buyers love a German luxury sedan.
It appears that there was a pent up demand for compact, front-wheel drive German luxury sedans that no one really knew about. Not only has the Mercedes CLA-Class been a success in the US with its Hungarian factory running three shifts to keep up, but the Audi A3 Sedan is doing quite well, too, after just three full months on the market.
Audi of America recently announced that the compact sedan shifted 2,452 vehicles in June and 7,735 units of the A3 since the beginning of the year. Not only are they selling; it's the people buying them that's important. According to Audi USA spokesperson John Schilling speaking to Autoblog, "A little over 25 percent of A3 buyers in April were 30 years or under." That's compared to about 18 percent for the A4, he said. Company executives also recently told Edmunds that many of those new customers are brand conquests turning in Honda or Toyota models. We gently mocked Audi when it held A3 Sedan launch parties aimed at hipsters that served craft beer and played indie music, but the marketing worked, apparently.
That said, if you're in the market for an A3, you might have not be able to get one immediately. According to Edmunds, some customers are on a waiting list for the compact luxury sedan. Although, Schilling said that's because Audi is still stocking dealers. "It's a little leaner than other models, but that's mainly because it's new and still ramping up," he said.
It doesn't seem like the strong sales are changing anytime soon. The A3 Sedan won the title of 2014 World Car of the Year, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the car its Top Safety Pick+ status, the group's highest award. Also, there are more a lot A3 variants on the way. The S3, A3 TDI and A3 Cabriolet all hit dealers later this summer, and the Q3 compact crossover arrives this fall. Finally, according to Edmunds, the A3 E-Tron plug-in hybrid slides into US dealers in the second quarter of 2015. All those new models could mean even more young folks grabbing for the Four Rings.
Much to the dismay of many - but apparently not enough - there's a whole category of power wagons available overseas that we just can't get our hands on. While the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG Estate and Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon are both available Stateside, the recently revised Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG Shooting Brake, the Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake we recently drove at the Nürburgring and the Audi RS6 Avant remain out of reach for American buyers. They all stand on more-or-less equal footing, with forced-induction V8s producing around 550 horsepower. But Audi is apparently taking things over and above with a new RS6 Plus.
Revealed ahead of schedule on a British dealer's website (which leaked details accompanied by a stock photo of the existing model), the RS6 Avant Plus will apparently keep the same 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8, but upgrade from 560 hp to a nice, round 600 to put it ahead of the competition and in league with supercars. Considering that the existing RS6 Avant is already capable of cracking the four-second barrier to 60 and tops out at over 190 miles per hour, we're sure the Plus version will positively annihilate the Autobahn, all while bringing your whole family along for the ride.
Unfortunately it doesn't look any more likely that Quattro GmbH's latest Plus model will make the transatlantic journey to American showrooms, but we can hope that maybe Audi will perform similar modifications on the RS7 Sportback we do get here.
We are on the cusp of the next generation of semi-autonomous driving technology becoming affordable. Adaptive cruise control is already trickling down to the mass market, and the more sophisticated systems found on vehicles like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class are clearly coming, as well. If you're a little adventurous, live in California and drive an Audi, you might be able to upgrade to the next stage of driverless tech even sooner. A San Francisco start-up called Cruise Automation is launching an aftermarket autopilot system called the RP1 for $10,000, with deliveries starting in 2015.
The RP1 is designed for 2012 and newer Audi A4 and S4 models. Although, Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt told Autoblog in an email: "There's no reason we can't expand to other cars, and we will." The system includes a sensor pod on the roof containing cameras, radar and other sensors to scan the road ahead. It then sends data to a small computer mounted on the side of the trunk. The desired inputs are then made by actuators for the steering, brakes and throttle to control the car. A button in the cabin activates the autopilot and controls the desired speed. Not completely unlike Audi's own, developmental, semiautonomous system.
At this point, the RP1 is somewhere between an adaptive cruise control system and an autonomous vehicle. It can control all of the cars inputs and even bring it down to a complete stop and then accelerate again. However, it only works on select highways in California. "We use geofencing to limit the areas of operation to segments of highway in which we've collected enough data to ensure our customers' safety," said Vogt to Autoblog.
The idea of upgrading your car into a semi-autonomous vehicle is certainly novel. Although it's pricy at the moment; the first 50 preorders start at $10,000 each, which includes installation. Scroll down to watch a brief video of how the RP1 works and read the company's official announcement.
Continue reading Startup will make your Audi A4 self-driving for $10k [w/video]
Episode #386 of the Autoblog podcast is here, and this week, Dan Roth, Chris Paukert and George Kennedy from Boldride.com talk about Morgan Stanley calling Tesla the most important automaker of the moment, the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Eco, more executive turnover at Cadillac, and rumors that a Chinese-built Volvo S60 will arrive in the North American market. We start with what's in the garage and finish up with some of your questions, and for those of you who hung with us live on our UStream channel, thanks for taking the time. Check out the new rundown below with times for topics, and you can follow along down below with our Q&A. Thanks for listening!
Autoblog Podcast #386:
Tesla called most important car company by Morgan Stanley
2015 Hyundai Sonata Eco
Cadillac sales chief steps down
Chinese Volvos coming
In the Autoblog Garage:
2014 Audi A3
2014 Audi Q7 TDI
2014 Ford Mustang GT Convertible
2014 Ram 1500 Tradesman
Hosts: Dan Roth, Chris Paukert
Guests: George Kennedy
Intro and Garage - 00:00
Tesla Morgan Stanley - 29:00
Hyundai Sonata Eco - 44:35
Cadillac Executive Turnover - 55:40
China-Built Volvos - 01:07:03
Q&A - 01:16:03
Get the podcast:
[UStream] Listen live on Mondays at 10 PM Eastern at UStream
[iTunes] Subscribe to the Autoblog Podcast in iTunes
[RSS] Add the Autoblog Podcast feed to your RSS aggregator
For years, the concept of an electric turbocharger was essentially a joke sold on eBay to boost power in your slammed Civic, but in the last five years it has moved from an idea on a piece of paper to a feasible reality. Audi has already toyed with a showcase of the cutting-edge tech in road cars with the RS5 TDI concept. Now, reports suggest an electric turbo may make it to the streets as soon as next year in the next-gen Q7 (spy shot pictured above).
"I can confirm we are working on the development of the e-boost definitely," said Ulrich Weiss, Audi's diesel engine boss, to Australia-based Drive. He didn't give an exact timeframe but hinted at sometime next year, possibly in the Q7. He also suggested the chance of an RS-branded diesel model in the vein of the RS5 TDI concept on the horizon, as well.
This tech isn't entirely new for the folks in Ingolstadt. Audi's R18 endurance racer already uses such a system to capture waste heat from the engine, converting it to electric power to further power the hybrid car. The RS5 TDI concept employs a similar idea with a 3.0-liter, twin-turbocharged V6 with an electric supercharger to make up for the turbo lag. It's able to pump out 385 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque and allegedly sprint to 62 miles per hour in four seconds.
If a version of this system makes it to the next Q7 with its rumored weight loss of roughly 800 pounds, we're thinking this might be one of the few SUVs that could hold the interest of enthusiast drivers.
Audi may be looking to get seriously competitive in the electric vehicle market, according to a report from Reuters. The company has plans prepared for a range of EVs that would compete with the likes of BMW and Tesla. In a market where innovation is seen as valuable, getting on board with electrification could help Audi avoid appearing out of step with the rest of the crowd (and the market), with analysts predicting a sharp uptick in battery-powered cars in the next several years.
Building on the E-Tron line, which already includes the A3 E-Tron, Audi will begin offering an electric version of its R8 supercar in Europe next year. According to two confidential sources at Audi, the company also has plans for high-performance electric sedans and SUVs. It appears as though Audi is taking direct aim at Tesla with alternatives to the current Model S and the upcoming Model X SUV.
Without getting into too many specifics about such plans, the sources did confirm the existence of blueprints for an Audi Q8 E-Tron. Audi has said that any future electric cars would have a target range of 400 kilometers (about 249 miles), but previous reports suggest that the Q8 E-Tron could have a range of about 370 miles. That could be a serious challenge for Tesla. Advantage: Audi?
All the German automakers have electric tricks up their sleeves. BMW has its i line, with the i3 making headway and the i8 expected to sell well. Mercedes-Benz has gotten into the game the B-Class Electric Drive. Also, its parent company Daimler has a stake in Tesla. Now, Audi appears poised to launch its own diverse electric fleet, and the next move might just be an SUV. And while this added competition might seem like tough news for Tesla, the proliferation of EVs, and the growing infrastructure that goes along with it, is more likely a tide that raises all (electric) ships - something that Elon Musk seems to understand very well.
Audi has released the official pricing info for the all-new A3 TDI Sedan, A3 Cabriolet and the S3 Sedan, and the news appears pretty good all around. As usual, none of the following prices include Audi's unspecified-for-now destination charges.
The big news is the S3, complete with 292 horsepower, a six-speed dual-clutch transmission and Quattro all-wheel drive. Prices start at just $41,100, which is a decent savings over the more powerful, 355-hp Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG.
The new A3 TDI sedan, meanwhile, has a starting price of just $32,600. While you'll be certain to save some money on fuel, you'll be doing so without Quattro all-wheel drive. Still, the improved economy of the 2.0-liter, turbodiesel four-cylinder isn't priced too steeply, relative to the gas-powered A3's $29,900 starting price.
Finally, the A3 Cabriolet will be available in a pair of powertrain groups. The base, front-drive 1.8-liter model starts at $35,600. That's a fair jump in price over the A3 Sedan, but hey, at least there's unlimited headroom. The 2.0-liter, Quattro-equipped droptop will ring up at $38,600. For reference, the same powertrain in the four-door model starts at $32,900.
Take a look below for the full pricing recap release from Audi.
Continue reading Audi S3 starts at $41,400, A3 Cabrio rings up at $35,600 and A3 TDI priced from $32,600