Audi is determined to become the world's number one premium carmaker, and the only way the brand can reach this goal is by entering new segments of the market which generate plenty of added volume. True, there is still some potential to be drawn from new niche models such as the A7 Sportback, but the big numbers are created elsewhere-for example, by extending the A3 family (with a sedan that should do well in the U.S. market), by getting the new A1 range on the road (sales start this summer in Europe), and by reviving the A2.
The European-market A2 was the brand's first try at a minicompact. Its sophisticated lightweight aluminum spaceframe architecture was great for fuel economy but it saddled the little Audi with a premium price tag, and sales never reached expectations. Since being discontinued, the car's reputation, however, has grown, and hopes are high for the new version.
"Contrary to popular belief, the A2 was not a cult car," maintains Audi boss Martin Winterkorn. "But it was a car ahead of its time. Why did it not sell in large enough numbers? Because buyers never really fell in love with the narrow and tall design. And because the bespoke high-tech aluminium spaceframe approach did not allow us to price the A2 sufficiently aggressively."
Next time round, things are going to be different. The upcoming new A2 is stamped out of steel, its designated engines are low-cost, high-efficiency three-cylinder units, and it is part of the entry-level New Small Family of cars. Specifically, Audi intends to modify the Volkswagen Space Up microvan to meet its needs. The Space Up is remarkably similar in concept to the original A2.
"With this car, Audi will offer a highly efficient solution to the mobility requirements of the modern metropolis," promises chairman Rupert Stadler.
The new model is 146 inches long and can accommodate between 7 and 35 cubic feet of luggage, sources say. Due in 2013, the A2 is expected to launch as a battery-powered e-tron-at the opposite end of the spectrum to the mighty 313-hp R8 e-tron earmarked for 2011. The zero-emission version, which features a 60-hp electric motor powered by a pack of lithium-ion energy cells, is claimed to have a driving range of 60 miles.
In a second step, the A2 will likely be offered with a still-to-be-defined hybrid drivetrain. Also under preparation is a new family of three-cylinder engines with displacements of 1.05 (gasoline) and 1.2 liters (diesel), with power outputs ranging from 60 to 75 hp.