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GERMANY: Audi sales at all-time high but profits slip

By headlineauto | 12 March 2014

Audi is two years ahead of target, CEO Rupert Stadler told the 2014 AGM in Ingolstadt

Audi is two years ahead of target, CEO Rupert Stadler told the 2014 AGM in Ingolstadt

Audi has again reported record sales in 2013 and out-performed the market in every region, if not every country, in which it operates.

Yet there was also a cautionary note with a drop in profits compared with 2012.

The company's global sales reached 1.57m cars last year, a rise of 8.3% over 2012, helped greatly by the new A3 Sportback and saloon and the trio of SUVs (Q3, Q5 and Q7). Audi is now selling 600,000 cars a year more than at the start of the decade.

"We are two years ahead of our volume development targets," said CEO Rupert Stadler.

"And we made a very good start to 2014. In January and February we delivered 242,000 automobiles, surpassing the prior-year figure by 9.3%."

Europe remains the company's premier region, contributing 732,000 to the 2013 total - a rise of 5% in a market which, overall, was down.

Yet China is closing fast, with sales of 492,000, an increase of more than 20%. Audi - one of the first western car brands to enter China - will become the first premium brand to sell more than half a million cars in a single year there in 2014.

The improvement in the US was also significant - up 13.5% to 158,000, putting Audi well on course to achieve the annual target of 200,000, set by the VW group main board, within the next four years.

Finance director Axel Strotbek expects "a slight growth" in the overall market this year and an increase in revenues to more than EUR50bn for the first time - last year they were EUR49.9bn, up on the EUR48.7bn of 2012.

"We are investing even more in new products and technology - our future," said Strotbek. Some 70% of the investment will be on product and technology.

"At the end of 2013 we approved the biggest investment in our history. By 2018 we plan to invest a total of approximately EUR22bn," he added.

This is despite a drop of 6.2% in profits last year, from 2012's EUR5.3bn to just over EUR5bn. Strotbek pointed to several factors for this - down payments on new plant and equipment in Hungary, Mexico and Brazil, low interest rates, currency variations and the high investment in research and development, almost 8% of revenues.

Audi is pushing ahead with advancements in lightweight engineering (aluminium and carbon fibre bodies), lighting technology (matrix LED and laser beam headlights), connectivity (deals with Google and Apple) and autonomous driving (available at speeds up to 37mph by the end of the decade) while attempting to a achieve big fuel consumption and emissions reductions through developments to combustion engines and electrified drivetrains.