Audi’s Prepping 17 New Models With Which to Fend Off BMW

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Ford may be leading the pack this year with its 23 planned global product launches, but Audi (VLKAY.PK) isn’t too far behind; it’s got 17 new releases slated for this year, including a new TT coupe, its Q3 crossover, and the recently released A3 sedan.

Volkswagen AG’s flagship luxury arm is gearing up for an all-out assault on the reigning king of luxury, fellow Bavarian firm BMW. It appears to be working already — Audi outsold BMW in February with 242,400 cars moved, just 383 more than Bimmer. Last year at the same time, Audi fell behind BMW by 429 cars; BMW has led the luxury market for nine straight years.

“We will increase deliveries in all regions of the world, including Europe,” Bloomberg quoted Audi Chief Executive Officer Rupert Stadler saying. It added that Stadler is anticipating 2014′s revenue to swell slightly, and forecast that registrations in China — currently Audi’s biggest market — will exceed 500,000 vehicles for the first time. Audi is VW’s biggest growth engine, and it will be sinking about $30.4 billion into the brand over the next half-decade – 70 percent of which will go towards new products and technology.

“Competition in the premium segment is more intense than ever,” Stadler said at the Audi’s headquarters in Ingolstadt. “We’re ahead of our two main rivals in the first two months, but this doesn’t really interest me much. Our focus is on further growth.”

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However, BMW isn’t sitting idly by as Audi makes gains. It’s introducing its electric i3 in the States this spring, and the i8 later on — both low-volume vehicles, but new and exciting ones for the brand nonetheless. The growth will likely come from the new 4 Series line, including the 4 Series Gran Coupe, the X4 crossover coupe, the new 3 Series, and a revamped X3.

Like BMW, Audi has been busy plugging any conceivable gap in its lineup. The Q3 will slot below the Q5 for those looking for a more practical vehicle with a smaller footprint, and the A3 puts a new floor on Audi’s range as the entry level model for the brand. As per usual, Mercedes won’t be sitting it out — it has a slew of new cars as well.

Of all the rivalries ranging in the auto industry, German luxury might be the one to watch this year. The three automakers have more or less the same range of offerings with which to compete, implying that it will largely come down to consumer preference. If it’s as close as Audi and BMW were in February through the end of the year, it’ll be a nail-biter the entire time.

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