Audi North American chief Johan de Nysschen said Audi plans to build a plant in North America by 2015 — but hasn’t decided when.
“As our business in the U.S. is growing now, it becomes strategically ever more important to begin to find a way of natural currency hedging,” de Nysschen said on the sidelines of the North American International Auto Show, where the company is introducing its concept Q3 Vail . “We have reached a point where we’re no longer debating whether we should have a North American plant, but it’s a matter of when to pull the trigger on it.”
Audi needs to build more than 100,000 vehicles at a North American plant to make it profitable — and Audi had record sales in the U.S of 117,000. “There’s not one model that has critical mass,” he said. “We have to earn that growth — and it will be determine by the rate that we can expand our footprint here.”
De Nysschen said Audi won’t decide this year whether to build a North American plant — but he noted that Audi previously said it plans to make that decision “well before 2015.”
Audi predicted that luxury sales in the U.S. will rise about 10 percent in 2012 to 1.37 million, up from 1.24 million in 2011. But Audi doesn’t include General Motors Co. Cadillac brand or Ford Motor Co.’s Lincoln brands — “for our purposes, there’s really very little cross-shopping with those brands.” De Nysschen is “very optimistic.”
“There’s still a very very significant chunk of affluent buyers who remained out of the market — not because they couldn’t afford the car – but psychologically it wasn’t the right time to be seen buying a new luxury car.”