Audi says it's way too early to write the sedan's obituary

The company is surprised by the RS 6 wagon's popularity, too

2019 Audi A6
2019 Audi A6 / Image Credit: Audi
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LAS VEGAS — As the global car market continues pivoting towards SUVs, and automakers increasingly abandon low-riding models, Audi told Autoblog it's far too early to write the sedan's eulogy. Hildegard Wortmann, the company's sales and marketing boss, pointed out worldwide demand for the body style remains stunningly high.

"My impression is that there's a little bit of a renaissance in certain parts of the world more than others," she said on the sidelines of CES 2020. Sales statistics back up her claim: In 2019, A6 sales in America grew by 69% to 17,807 units, while the firm sold 2,963 examples of the flagship A8 (pictured), an 85% increase over 2018. 2019 was the first full calendar year of availability for both redesigned models, so these figures are relative, and 61% of the company's 2019 volume nonetheless came from SUVs and crossovers; its bestseller was the Q5.

Her team is consequently keeping a close eye on the sales mix to understand whether the balance will continue to shift in the favor of SUVs in the coming years, or if sedans will gradually claw back. The story is different in Europe and in many Asian countries, where the sedan continues to hold its ground across the full range. "I'm glad we have both," Wortmann said, suggesting an exit from the segment isn't in the pipeline.

She argued offering coupe and convertible models isn't as important as making cool cars. "I don't think customers say, 'I want a coupe or a convertible.' They see a desirable design, and they say 'I want one of those.'" Both body styles are free-falling in key markets such as the United States and Europe, and neither was ever popular to begin with in China, so Audi — like its peers and rivals — can't justify offering a two-door variant of every car in its range. And yet, without diving into future products, Wortmann hinted Audi isn't ready to ditch two-doors.

"Coupes and convertibles are highly emotional cars, so they will always have their right of existence," she said.

While the station wagon segment looks cadaverous in the United States, and entering it in 2020 looks like marketing suicide, Wortmann has been surprised by the RS 6 Avant's popularity among American enthusiasts. "If we had announced, 'We're launching an Avant in the United States,' everyone would have called us crazy. I've heard we can't sell those in the United States, but then we bring the RS 6 and everyone goes crazy."

It's a sign car culture is shifting. There's a new generation of enthusiast buyers in the spotlight, and government regulations play a bigger role in defining an automaker's product portfolio than ever in recent memory, but the fan base stands strong and loyal. Horsepower and design remain tremendously appealing to many buyers.

"People are still highly emotional about cars. Some walk around and say, 'People don't like cars anymore, it's an anti-car society.' Sorry, but I don't see that," Wortmann concluded.

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