VW Has Big Plans for Audi and Its Flagship A8

2011 Audi A8 front side view

What do you see when you look at the car above? I see a Ford Five Hundred, and that isn’t good. Is Audi going too conservative with its new flagship? Well, take a look at the front-end photo after the break, and tell us what you think.

The 2011 A8 is going on sale in the U.S. in late November, and prices begin at $78,050, somewhere between the BMW 7 Series and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The car has every imaginable luxury feature, plus some you haven’t even contemplated. Scroll down for the press release here. A very complete technical review is here.

Will all these goodies, plus a gorgeous interior, be enough finally to enable Audi to penetrate the U.S. luxury market? The bigger question is: Can Volkswagen achieve its professed goal of becoming the world’s largest carmaker, with the A8 leading the way?

2011 Audi A8 frontAudiWorld says the company’s worldwide September sales are up 16 percent over a year ago. It sold 22,125 cars in China for September, but only 8,151 in the U.S., though sales here are doing better than a year ago.

But yearly sales through September show Audi selling about half the cars here that BMW, Mercedes, and Lexus each sell. VW brands together get 3.1 percent of the U.S. market—“less than South Korea’s Hyundai, which has been selling to Americans for about thirty fewer years.”

2011 Audi A8 interiorThe VW strategy is to improve its dealer network, create unique car-selling shops, and produce the cars less expensively in U.S. factories. That, I submit, is not enough. Cars like the A8 and the Passat, good as they may be, are just not sufficiently differentiated from their competition.

VW has really to rethink its entire line. And it could take lessons from Porsche’s success with the Panamera: Make something (ugly or not) that nobody else has! We know Audi can make great cars, but can it make cars that excite people? Most reviewers had high praise for the A8, but nobody really got turned on by it. I’ll be very surprised if many S-Class or 7 Series buyers switch to this car.

You have set aside $80,000 to buy a new luxury sedan. Which one(s) would you consider?


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Used Ford Five Hundred
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  1. I haven’t spent much time in $80,000 sedans, so I’d be pretty much starting from scratch. I’d certainly test-drive the A8, but I’d also want to test-drive the Panamera, which no doubt looks worlds better from the driver’s seat and has gotten plenty of strong reviews. The BMW 7 Series would also get a test-drive, though, and I suspect that’s what I’d choose.

  2. With my $80K, I’m buying a Jaguar XJ. It’s like nothing on the road and has a brand panache that Audi can’t touch.

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