AUDI, sometimes called the other Bavarian car maker, is a subsidiary of fellow German car company Volkswagen. AUDI manufactures luxury automobiles with a lineup including its A-series cars and Q5 and Q7 SUVs. Other models include the TTS Roadster, TT Coupe, the S4, and an all-wheel-drive A6 allroad quattro wagon. The company also makes armor-plated security vehicles. Audi Financial Services provides financing for leasing and purchasing vehicles, offers an Audi Visa Signature credit card, and handles insurance through Liberty Mutual. Italy-based Automobili Lamborghini, which makes the extravagant Murciélago and Gallardo, is an AUDI subsidiary. AUDI gets about three-quarters of its sales in Europe.
AUDI is veering into a new market with a deal to acquire luxury motorcycle company Ducati from International Motorcycles, a subsidiary of European investment group Investindustrial. Ducati's premium designs with high-performance engines and lightweight construction make the company a good fit with AUDI's high-end auto models. Besides adding a product that is graced by an expanding market, the acquisition will also give AUDI an entrance into the small, high-powered motor industry.
AUDI added new additions to its stable for 2010, which included the Audi A5 Cabriolet and Sportback, as well as the Audi A4 allroad quattro, Audi TT RS, and Audi R8 Spyder. The company is developing an all-electric sports car known as the Audi e-tron; the concept vehicles are being tested in the US and are expected to hit the market in late 2011 or 2012. The top AUDI models produced in 2009 include the A4, A3, A6, and Audi Q5.
The recession packed a particularly hard punch for the automobile industry, but not for all markets. While AUDI's Western European sales fell by almost 12% and the US market by approximately 6%, the company realized an about 33% growth rate in China. The latter part of 2009 brought a ray of sunlight at the end of the recessionary tunnel. Even though the company reduced production to under a million vehicles (Lamborghini produced only 1,417 vehicles, down 42% from 2008) and recorded a decrease in revenues of almost 13%, it posted a positive operating profit of about €1.6 billion (more than $2 billion).
AUDI is full speed ahead on its €5.5 billion (about $7.7 billion) investment in technology, with an eye on launching diesel technology in North American markets and extending its service network. AUDI manufactured about 1.5 million engines in 2009; diesel engines account for about 50% of the total engines produced. The majority of engine production is conducted at the AUDI Hungaria Motor facility, with about half of the engines sent to the Volkswagen Group. The company is investing $1.2 billion in its Hungarian plant. It also has automobile manufacturing facilities in Belgium, China, and Germany.
AUDI concentrated on building a lighter-weight frame for fuel efficiency. The resulting AUDI Space Frame, which was based on aeronautics engineering and fiber-reinforced alloys, met that criteria. The frame was developed at the company's Aluminum and Lightweight Design Center in Neckarsulm is staffed with 170 engineers who focus on creating auto body material using plastics, magnesium alloys, steel alloys, and carbon fiber composite materials. In addition to designing technology-backed premium automobiles, the company is concentrating on advancing its brand positioning, as well as expanding into new car markets around the world.
AUDI is also pushing forward with its electric car technology. Audi of America, Volkswagen's US marketing group for Audi vehicles, marketed a diesel version of its Q7 SUV, and AUDI has created a hybrid version of its new Q5 crossover vehicle for the US market, scheduled to debut in 2013. The e-tron will follow.