In defiance of a largely stagnant economy, Audi is ramping up production of its A8 flagship sedan in anticipation of steady demand for luxury cars, particularly in China.
Albrect Reimold, who runs Audi’s second largest assembly plant in Nerkarsulm, in Southwestern Germany, which builds the car, along with A7 Sportback and R8 recently stated “we’re extremely busy and have reason to believe this trend will continue for some time.”
The plant has been hiring staff and Reimold expects output to jump by some 21 percent during 2011, which would result in a record production total of some 260,000 cars for the year.
In similar moves, Audi’s chief rivals, BMW and Mercedes-Benz are also increasing production and are even building new factories, despite the debt crisis and economic uncertainty that continues to plague much of Europe. BMW says it predicts global vehicle sales of some 1.6 million for 2011 (up from original estimates of some 1.5 million), while Mercedes says demand for M-B and Smart models should outstrip 2010 totals, which were some 1.35 million units.
Nevertheless, despite bucking the current economic trends, there are some industry analysts who feel that this apparent growth from the big three German luxury car makers probably won’t sustain itself over the longer term.
Marcus Kappler, deputy head of economic analysis at the ZEW Center for Economic Research in Manheim, Germany, believes that the automakers won’t be able to ‘de-couple’ themselves from an economy that’s clearly normalizing.
His sentiments are echoed by Henner Lehne, a Frankfurt based analyst with research firm IHS Automotive, who believes that economic realities will probably hit the likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes next year. “Customers are becoming more cautious,” he says. “Big-ticket items sell less well in difficult times.” However, he did say that even in such circumstances, luxury buyers still tend to have more money to spend, therefore an economic slowdown might not hit high-end carmakers as hard as those catering to the mass market.
It’ll be interesting to see how things pan out.
GALLERY: 2011 Audi A8
[Source: Automotive News]