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A battle that almost seems to have fought it self, selling diesel cars in the U.S. used to be little more than a fool’s errand for most automakers, but that is quickly changing with companies competing to catch up with the trend.
American motorists’ mentalities were very different a decade ago. Gas was selling at $1.25 a gallon, and thirsty SUVs like the Hummer H2 were popular.
Fast forward to today and gas prices are more than triple the old average. That translates to buyer’s increasing interest in smaller, more fuel-efficient models like the MINI Cooper.
“MINI launched in the U.S. during the time when gas was cheap and large trucks and SUV’s ruled the road. Many thought the brand would be a one-hit wonder, and we are extremely proud that we were able to surprise some [of] the toughest critics, and at times, even ourselves,” MINI USA vice president Jim McDowell said.
Despite that skepticism, the company is celebrating a decade of sales and growth in the U.S., and steady upward progress. Most recently the company debuted its 2013 Countryman John Cooper Works edition, which is a more performance-oriented take on its largest offering to date. The Countryman is an example of how the company grew over the past 10 years.
The MINI brand first opened shop in San Francisco back in 2002, at a time when many didn’t think a funky, European hatchback had any place on the vast Interstates of America, a land where gas was cheap and size mattered most.
Many felt this premium small car brand, under BMW ownership didn’t have much of a chance of surviving in the States, especially because it started as a one-model company.
Soon, MINI expanded by introducing more models including not-so-small options. This eventually lead to the six choices you see today and a healthy customer base.
The battle axes are sharpened and starting to swing in Germany between the three largest luxury car makers, as Audi admits for the first time that they plan to sell their compact Q3 SUV in America.
The Volkswagen-based luxury brand has been hinting and teasing the notion that we might get the Q3 on North American soil, but until now there wasn’t any way to be sure. Now Audi has confirmed it will reveal a Q3 “Vail” Concept at the Detroit Auto Show on Monday, using the vehicle as part of a larger strategy to overtake BMW as the top-selling luxury brand by 2015.
“The next pillar of the market that we have to conquer is the United States,” Audi CEO Rupert Stadler said in London on Thursday. “We see opportunities in the SUV and sedan segments.”
Audi has been growing as a brand outside the U.S. but making a more solid footprint in the American market is essential for them to meet their goal. Here in the States BMW and Mercedes still have a strong grip on luxury sales, but by introducing smaller cars, Audi may be able to change that. Along with the Q3, Audi is expected to deliver several versions of its next generation A3, including a sedan.
Another key point in their strategy will be manufacturing cars domestically rather than shipping and therefore significantly limiting availability to consumers, something BMW and Mercedes have already figured out.
It isn’t as easy as flipping a switch, though, according to Stadler, Audi is finally profitable in America, giving them the confidence to go from wading into full swim.
“In the next decade, we will have to think about the next icon in the Audi brand,” Stadler said. Given the strong trend toward smaller, more economy-minded cars, we’re eager to see what he has up his sleeve.
GALLERY: Audi A3 Concept
[Source: Automotive News]
Set to earn the title for the year’s best-selling luxury marque, BMW aims to keep the momentum going and targets its next goal to expanding U.S. sales by another 25 percent within no more than 3 years.
BMW U.S. head Ludwig Willisch addressed with conviction, “In the mid-term, we expect U.S. sales of 300,000 units for the BMW brand.” Comparatively, BMW is poised to sell 240,000 units this year and has sold 221,073 up to the end of November. At an extremely close second, Mercedes-Benz, has sold 219,491 units.
Despite leading by only a small margin, the head of BMW sales Ian Robertson is unfazed. “We want to be the number one premium brand in the U.S.– this year and in the future. Year to date, we are ahead of Mercedes [in the United States] and we intend to defend that position.”
[Source: Left Lane News]