Audi's A3 has been something of a quiet entry point for the German automaker in the North American market, selling in modest volumes compared to its more upscale A4 and A6 brethren. According to Audi of North America president, Johan de Nysschen, those low volumes have been supply constrained for some time. The A3 has been performing so well in the European market that capacity remains in short supply. The supply constraint is so acute that Audi hasn't been offering any incentives or leasing plans to help boost the model's numbers.
Another reason for the A3's low take-rate, de Nysschen admits, is its five-door hatchback bodystyle, a configuration that is at odds with traditional expectations for premium cars among U.S. consumers. But help may be on the way.
As we first reported back in January, Audi may build a sedan version of the A3 to better appeal to this market's consumer tastes. However, the company is reluctant to undertake the cost of developing a new bodystyle for the North American market alone, and Audi of Europe apparently isn't terribly interested in offering one to its customers. The potential solution de Nysschen is pursuing hinges upon lobbying Audi's other international arms to see if they are interested in offering an A3 sedan. Of those divisions, Audi's Asian outposts would seem to be the most likely candidate, as countries like South Korea and China are very accepting of cars with trucks, and both are seen as strong growth markets.
Interestingly, de Nysschen reminded Autoblog that the A3's sales volume has actually more than doubled in the States this year. That's partly because Audi is earning more consideration from car buyers, and partly because demand for the model has fallen in Europe where it is approaching the end of its lifecycle. With less product needed to keep EU dealers happy, Audi has been able to secure more units to sell in the States. Through August, Audi sold 4,012 A3 five-doors in the States. That represents a whopping 74.8 percent year-over-year increase – a remarkable feat for a car that has been on sale since 2006. By this time last year, Audi had only managed to shift 2,295 units. Just as interesting is word that sales of the TDI diesel A3 account for around 50 percent of the model's sales – a percentage that Audi says holds true for its other TDI offering, the Q7.
The next-generation A3 is expected in 2012, but with plans for a sedan still up in the air, it seems unlikely that a four-door variant will accompany its initial rollout. Either way, the second-generation model is expected to continue sharing quite a bit with its Volkswagen counterparts, including offering a derivative of automaker's ubiquitous 2.0-liter TFSI four-cylinder and Quattro all-wheel drive.