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Audi, Fiat squabbling over numbers and letters

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There have been rumors and speculation and prognostications about a Nissan Juke- and Mini Cooper-fighting Audi Q2 since 2012. There have been the same for a performance-oriented Q4 since 2011, perhaps previewed by the TT Offroad concept shown last year at the Beijing Motor Show. Turns out that those two alphanumeric combos are the only ones missing from the series Q1 to Q9 in Audi's trademark stable, and the Ingolstadt company wants to get them to make its badge sequence and crossover lineup complete. But Fiat owns them, and rumor is, CEO Sergio Marchionne appears to have no interest in selling them.

Fiat has used the Q2 and Q4 like trim badges, identifying whether a company product has two-wheel or all-wheel drive. They did it with the Alfa Romeo 159 sedan, and they do it now on the Maserati Quattroporte S and Ghibli S Q4 sedans. Car magazine says Marchionne "may not be categorically opposed to selling the rights," but he absolutely won't do it to any fiefdom in the Volkswagen empire, which would leave Audi a jilted suitor.

Why is Sergio being so serious? VW Group CEO Ferdinand Piƫch first starting waving torches on the bridge between the two companies when he said Alfa Romeo could sell four times as many cars if Volkswagen owned it, then burned the bridge when it continued to publicize its desire to buy Alfa Romeo. VW followed that up by throwing salt on the land around the destroyed bridge with its aggressive pricing in Europe during the worst of the car sales slump there, which Marchionne said was causing a "bloodbath." VW's final flourish was to set the river itself on fire, when a press officer said Marchionne wasn't qualified to head the European Automotive Manufacturers Association (ACEA) and VW would quit the organization if he did take the top spot. That is why, putting it optimistically, Audi looks to have a grim chance of getting the Q2 and Q4 marques from the Italian.

So long as he is in power, at least: Marchionne said he's walking away from the job in 2018. Audi might have a better chance bending the knee to, and generously rewarding, his successor.

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