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March 4, 2003

SWITZERLAND: Audi sales slip in first two months but China will fuel second half recovery – report

The Audi unit of Germany's Volkswagen said on Tuesday its sales had slipped in the first two months of the year, but forecast a return to form in the second half with strong growth in China, Reuters said.

By bcusack

The Audi unit of Germany’s Volkswagen said on Tuesday its sales had slipped in the first two months of the year, but forecast a return to form in the second half with strong growth in China, Reuters said.

Audi board member responsible for sales, Georg Flandorfer, told Reuters in an interview at the Geneva motor show the company had sold 1.6% fewer cars in January and February than a year ago, but he still expected full-year sales to rise to around 750,000 units from 742,000 last year.

“The growth will come from China,” Flandorfer told Reuters. “In Germany we expect to be just above last year’s level. The market with the biggest doubt is the North American region, where we should be at around last year’s level.”

According to Reuters, weaker sales of the firm’s small A2 hatchback and TT sports car pushed group sales down to just under 108,000 units in the first two months of the year, but Flandorfer was confident sales would catch up with last year’s level by early July.

Reuters said he also noted that the company, which exports around 70% of its cars, had just launched an updated A4 compact saloon a year ago, and that potential customers could also have been holding back ahead of the launch of the new A3 compact hatchback, unveiled on Tuesday.

Reuters said Audi aimed to sell 130,000 of the new three-door A3 cars this year, up more than 10% on annual sales of the old model, and predicted sales would be lifted further by the launch of a five-door variant in around a year’s time.

Audi, which accounted for around a third of the Volkswagen group’s profits last year with a pre-tax figure of 1.25 billion euros, has said it expects flat profits in 2003 despite the anticipated rise in sales, Reuters said.

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