After a healthy 2013, Audi reckons this year promises even more
It's just the start of February but already Audi New Zealand boss Dean Sheed is looking forward to December 31 after a successful 2013.
His brand sold more vehicles priced over $100,000 than any other premium brand in New Zealand thanks to the popularity of the large Q7 SUV model and the luxury sedans A6, A7 and A8.
Added to those were the purchase of the entry level A1 and A3s and the mid-sized Q5 SUV selling out whenever it landed. All those sales combined to give Audi NZ its best ever results with 1800 vehicles registered last year - though 100 behind BMW NZ, that was our best selling premium brand.
Now one month into 2014 and Sheed is expecting to beat his brand's 2013 figures as he adds more sporty and luxury models to his line-up.
First into the dealerships this year is the S3 Sportback - a performance-based luxury hatchback-cum-small station wagon that was launched this week.
Audi NZ adds the A3 sedan next week and by mid-year Sheed will have 40 models of the A3 cabriolet to sell.
Those cars join the A3 Sportback that was launched last year with expected sales of 420 across the A3 range - and that's before he adds the S3 to the total.
Those S3 buyers are drivers looking for a sporty performance from their cars, not just something to get them around town.
And the S3 Quattro Sportback's 2-litre, four-cylinder turbo engine will attract such customers.
The engine has been revised over the previous model S3 Sportback, up 26kW to give 221kW of power and 380Nm of torque, seeing it hit 100km/h in 4.9 seconds and shaving .7 of a second off the previous figure, with the car's top speed electronically governed at 250km/h.
The six-speed S tronic dual clutch gearbox has been reconfigured with the lower gears closer together and sixth gear "taller" to give more fuel economy.
Add to that the use of aluminium in the build of the car to cut the weight of the Sportback by 70kg and you get figures of 6.9l/100km - down from 7.4l/100km from the previous number.
The new S3 Sportback is priced at $79,900 for the standard model but you have to pay $3500 more for the technology package that includes SatNav, parking assist and a rear-view camera.
Add another $3500 and you get the Sports package that gives the car fancier 18in alloys, LED headlights, sports seats - that lose the electronic function over the standard S3 Sportback - and magnetic ride damper control which allows drivers to set the suspension to give you a sports, comfort, individual or automatic mode depending on what sort of level of ride you want.
Sheed expects the early buyers of the S3 Sportback to tick the boxes for both packages so they'll be paying $86,900 for the vehicle.
A criticism was that most buyers of a luxury car would expect at least SatNav to be standard but Sheed said such packages gives the vehicles a higher price come resale.
Heading out in the standard S3 last week from Auckland to Rotorua via the winding and hilly back roads around Tuakau and Te Awamutu, the turbo engine was quick to impress with a purposeful surge in power - be it at intersections or when overtaking.
From lunch break at Te Awamutu, it was a swap into the S3 specced up with the two packages.
Again the route was a real test of the vehicles, due to the country roads around Arapuni then the State Highways to Rotorua.
With the damper control set at comfort, the drive was smooth through the bumpier back roads, but put it into a more sporty setting and the suspension hardened up and you felt the ride.
The drive programme finished at a luxury Rotorua resort, and with the S3 Sportback parked in the front of the hotel, a few of the wealthy guests left their mid-afternoon drinks to admire the Audis.
With such attention, Sheed is bound to have a very good 2014.