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Audi booms

2007-05-10 11:46

Christiaan Hetzner

Volkswagen's premium brand Audi continued to grow faster than its closest competitors, thanks to hot models like its new TT roadster and the new Q7 sport utility vehicle.

Unit sales grew 9.2% in April to 84 736 units, Audi said on Wednesday at its annual general meeting.

In the first four months of the year, sales increased 9.4% to 332 900 units as the brand won considerably more customers in emerging markets like Russia and China.

"The dynamic growth in our sales figures ought to be reflected in our key earnings figures this year, too. We therefore expect the latter to be at least on a par with last year's high level," Audi Chief Executive Rupert Stadler said in a speech to shareholders.

Audi has also enjoyed success in more established car markets where competition has been particularly fierce, even improving US sales by more than 15% through April.

"We are getting nearer to the 100 000 level in the US," Audi's head of sales and marketing, Ralph Weyler, told reporters on the sidelines of the AGM, adding he expected Audi to remain profitable there despite fresh record lows in the dollar.

Audi reaffirmed its forecast that sales would rise to 1 million vehicles next year and reach 1.5 million in 2015. Last year, group deliveries to customers rose to a record for an 11th consecutive year, up 9.2% at 905 188 vehicles.

Porsche

Group vehicle sales at BMW, the world's largest premium carmaker, grew 3.0% in April to 118 456 units, BMW said on Tuesday.

Rival Mercedes Car Group reported on Monday vehicle sales fell 3.0% last month to 97 800 units despite the rollout of its revamped Mercedes C-Class as sales of its Smart car continued to fall.

While BMW managed at least a marginal gain of less than 1% in the first four months, a drop in demand for Mercedes' Smart brand of minicars led the division to post a drop of 2.8% during the same period.

Stadler said Audi would start local assembly operations in India in the autumn to better tap dynamic growth in that market.

"We will be assembling parts sets manufactured in Germany at a plant in Aurangabad, in West India," he said. Stadler played down investor concerns that Porsche's influence over Volkswagen - and by extension Audi - as VW's top shareholder may not be as benign as the Stuttgart-based sports carmaker claims.

"We always take care that no one serves himself at Audi's expense, that goes for Porsche too," the Audi CEO said.

"I can also clearly tell you that Porsche has no influence on the model policy of Audi."

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