Geneva 2012: Audi S3, RS3, and A3 Covertible Headed to the U.S.

Audi is betting big on the 2014 A3 in the U.S. market, counting on the new sedan model to boost popularity, but also aiming to bolster sales with a convertible and S3 and RS3 performance models.  “I would certainly like to see a comprehensive lineup for the A3 sedan that would include those halo models as well,” Audi of America president Johan de Nysschen said at the 2012 Geneva auto show. If that’s not convincing enough for you, take a look at how de Nysschen’s boss addressed the same topic.

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[caption id="attachment_114693" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Audi of America president Johan de Nysschen"][/caption]

“I would go almost a step further,” added Peter Schwarzenbauer, Audi board member of marketing and sales. “I think it’s very likely. It would be for stupid from our point of view [not to bring the performance models]. The US has the biggest S share in the world, so I think you can assume [an S3 and/or RS3] will happen.”

The S4 and S5 currently account for roughly 25 to 30 percent of Audi A4 and A5 sales in America. Despite that, the S3 and RS3 variants of the current A3 have been held back from the U.S. market. In Europe, today’s S3 produces 261 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque from a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder. The RS3 model trumps that with a turbocharged five-cylinder churning out 340 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque. The A3 sedan concept shown at the 2011 Detroit auto show featured a powertrain that would make for a tasty, new-generation RS3 model with a 408-hp turbocharged five-cylinder engine, Quattro all-wheel-drive, and a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

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[caption id="attachment_114697" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Peter Schwarzenbauer, Audi board member of marketing and sales"][/caption]

Audi, which claims to have invented the compact luxury segment with the 1996 A3, is facing fresh competition in America from Mercedes-Benz and BMW. Both of those automakers are preparing front-wheel-drive-based compacts due in the next couple years. The new A3 strengthens Audi’s position thanks to the addition of a three-box sedan, a body style that is far more popular with Americans than the current hatchback body. “The A3 sedan has a volume potential that is probably three times higher than what we have seen in the best years with the current production car,” explained de Nysschen. Higher volume of the mainstream model will allow Audi to chase more sales with niche models, including a convertible. “The sedan is a perfect car for the U.S.,” Schwarzenbauer said. “We also have a very, very attractive cabriolet coming for the A3, so I think this range will give us the possibility to sell 25 percent more from this new generation compared to the previous one.”

The two-door hatchback that debuted at the 2012 Geneva auto show isn’t likely to reach the U.S., but a four-door hatchback similar to the current model (known as a sportback in Audi-speak) is still a possibility. “We might consider it further down the road—a sportback derivative—but for now the only car we can confirm is the sedan,” said de Nysschen.

U.S. officials have acknowledged that the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder currently found in the A3 will be the standard engine when the new car arrives in the United States as a 2014 model. A diesel model—likely the familiar 2.0-liter unit—will be optional. A smaller, less powerful engine will eventually enter the U.S market, though the specs haven’t been confirmed. “For the U.S., I don’t think that we’re in a position right now to tell you there is a 1.4T in our stars,” said de Nysschen. “The lineup that is envisaged for the A3 will see a comprehensive range of engines that will include an engine capacity below what we have today.” In Europe, A3 buyers will have their choice of 1.4- and 1.8-liter turbocharged gas four-cylinders, and 1.6- and 2.0-liter turbo-diesel four-cylinders. Of those engines, the turbo 1.8-liter makes the most sense for the U.S. market. It is rated at 180 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque.

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