Audi used the Detroit show to introduce its new 12-cylinder A8 luxury saloon on Sunday, placing high hopes behind its signature vehicle, Associated Press (AP) reported.

"We wanted to show we could have a truly competitive flagship car," Audi of America president Len Hunt told AP.

Hunt reportedly said Audi sold 4,000 A8s in 2003, exceeding expectations, and hopes to sell between 5,000 and 6,000 in 2004.

Sales of the A8 climbed 170% between 2002 and 2003, Hunt added, according to AP.

Associated Press said the new A8, which has standard all-wheel drive and a longer front grille [expected to be seen on all future new Audis], will be on the road in Germany in February and will reach North American showrooms by the end of the year when it will cost around $US120,000.