Audi's A4 and A6 exemplify the automaker's best qualities: sophisticated design, excellent craftsmanship, and superb road manners. But the company has some catching up to do if it wants to win more American customers.
A pair of Audis showed up on my test drive schedule as winter morphed into spring in the Northeast. They weren't the newest models in the line -- the 2011 A6 is being replaced by the redesigned 2012 model as this is written, and the all-new A7 arrives this month. But they reminded me why I like Audis so much -- and helped me to gauge how close Audi has come to reaching top tier status in the U.S.
Audi is the late arrival to the American market compared with Mercedes-Benz and BMW, and has been trying hard to catch up. So far this year, import luxury car sales have trailed the overall market, but Audi has been outperforming its German rivals, as well as Lexus. It takes more than velocity to compete in this arena, as we shall see.
Revamped a year ago, the compact A4 remains the core of the Audi lineup. Along with its sportier sibling, the S4, it accounts for nearly half of Audi's car sales. Audi has had less success establishing the larger A6 as a second core model; Audi sells only a quarter as many of this model as it sells A4s. That contrasts with Mercedes, where sales of its E-class nearly equal those of the smaller C-class, and BMW, where sales of the 5-series run at about half the rate of the 3-series. More
It's the Rodney Dangerfield of passenger cars.
That's right, Toyota's Avalon gets no respect. Ever since it was introduced in 1994, it has been derided as a "Japanese Buick" -- and that was long before Buicks became fashionable.
Many auto writers, perhaps subconsciously recalling their pre-teen years as Go-Kart racers, joked about the obvious efforts made to appeal to mature buyers, like simplified, oversized controls and a suspension more tuned for comfort MOREFeb 14, 2011 12:27 PM ET
Ford's latest Explorer leaves behind its predecessor's somewhat unsteady platform and delivers superior handling . But is the top-of-the-line LTD model really worth its $50K price tag?
The rise of online car shopping has thankfully given customers the ability to investigate exactly what vehicles a local dealer has in stock along with the window stickers for each offering.
That reduces the opportunity for the ancient bait-and-switch scam of a dealer who advertises MOREJan 4, 2011 1:52 PM ET
Despite a steep price tag and less than stellar drivability, the 2011 Sonata puts Hyundai in the hybrid game, giving shoppers another reason to consider a brand they might have snubbed a few years ago.
In 2010, the Hyundai Sonata came out of nowhere to break into the ranks of the 10-best selling vehicles for the first time. Don't be surprised to see it challenge for the top five in MOREDec 30, 2010 10:31 AM ET
Sporting a glass cockpit with programmable touch screens, the Ford Edge offers space-age theatricality to the driving experience. But it may face some stiff internal competition when the Explorer is relaunched.
As CEO of Ford since 2006, aeronautical engineer Alan Mulally has adapted some airplane design ideas for automobiles. One of his first was standardizing the placement of controls on all Ford vehicles. You can find the windshield wiper switch in the MOREDec 28, 2010 3:01 PM ET
With a revised look and feel, the handsome 2011 Dodge Durango could be the harbinger of a very big year for Dodge, and for Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne.
For the past 18 months, CEO Sergio Marchionne has been holding Chrysler together with spit, baling wire, and a lot of airy promises about the future while he hurries through a reworking of the product line.
This month, the promises begin to be replaced MOREDec 7, 2010 11:47 AM ET
The 2011 Cayenne looks better, specs out better, and drives better than its disappointing forbear.
When the first Cayenne SUV came out in 2002, unlike most Porsche purists, I was immediately attracted by the idea of a Porsche with four doors. It was the family man's Porsche; the addition of the usable back seat meant it wouldn't be restricted to drives on Sunday afternoon.
But I, along with the purists, was MORENov 30, 2010 12:27 PM ET
Kia has graduated from upstart to established commodity in the American auto market, but are consumers ready to pay close to $30,000 for one of its vehicles?
At this late date, nobody should be surprised when Kia lands in a popular segment like compact crossovers that is dominated by towering competitors like Toyota and Honda -- and immediately delivers a credible competitor.
So the merits of the 2011 Sportage when stacked up MOREOct 27, 2010 1:01 PM ET
Amid declining sales and a shifting auto market, it looked like Ford had lost faith in the Explorer, one of the company's most successful models. But Ford has given the Explorer a revise and a new lease on life, perhaps at the expense of another member of its family.
Ford doesn't do everything right. Back in the day when SUVs were the hot thing going, the Explorer was the hottest of MOREOct 18, 2010 1:22 PM ET
What's the most disrespected vehicle in Mercedes-Benz's lineup? The R-class -- by a mile.
The R-class has seemed like an orphan since its inception. Spawned by the ill-fated merger of Daimler-Benz and Chrysler, it is built in Mercedes' Alabama plant, where the spirit of Carl Benz is seldom seen. Even Mercedes didn't seem to know what to do with the R-class when it arrived; marketers defined the R as MORESep 21, 2010 12:20 PM ET
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