Audi is giving serious consideration to adding its own production plant in the United States as part of the Volkswagen subsidiary’s plan to double sales to 200,000 by 2018.
While the German marque has become one of the world’s largest luxury brands – in some markets now leading more established rivals like Mercedes-Benz and BMW – it has continued to lag in the U.S., where it never fully recovered from a safety scandal back in the late 1980s, despite having been cleared by federal regulators.
Jonathan Browning, the new CEO of the Volkswagen Group, the U.S. subsidiary of Volkswagen AG overseeing both the VW and Audi brands, says a decision on the American assembly plant will be made by the end of 2011.
That would finally wrap up an ongoing debate that has spanned more than a decade. While both Benz and BMW now have major assembly operations in the U.S., Audi has resisted setting up a “transplant” assembly line, in part, because of the limited sales volumes it has achieved in the States. But critics have argued that the maker is suffering from a chicken-and-egg syndrome and can’t build volume without the plant.
Playing in favor of setting up a facility, lopsided dollar/Euro exchange rates have made it increasingly cost-prohibitive to import vehicles from Europe, especially smaller models like the popular A4.