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by Tim Beissmann

The boss of Audi has pushed back his company’s plans of becoming the world’s largest premium car maker to 2020, warning that the road ahead is “getting bumpier” for European industry and its manufacturers.

In an interview with German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Audi CEO Rupert Stadler admitted he now believes it will take around five years longer than previously thought to surpass the rival BMW for global sales in the luxury car class.

“By 2020 at the latest,” Stadler said. “ It is not about overtaking BMW tomorrow or the day after, but to seize and secure the top position.”

Stadler previously set the goal of becoming the world’s top-selling premium car maker by 2015, but now concedes that target is out of reach.

Audi surged past Mercedes-Benz last year to become the second most popular luxury car brand in the world, and will retain that position when it announces its first-half sales results for 2012 later this month.

BMW’s global sales have increased 8.3 per cent so far this year to 747,064 vehicles while Mercedes is up 6.9 per cent to 652,924.

Complicating Audi’s pursuits is Mercedes, which has its sights set on overtaking Audi by 2015 on the way to challenging BMW for top spot in the future.

Audi Australia shares the global company’s aspirations of market domination, and previous managing director Joerg Hofmann was hopeful of achieving that goal earlier than the 2015 target.

Audi faces a tougher battle in Australia, however, with the brand currently sitting in third position behind Mercedes-Benz and BMW. Mercedes is the top-selling premium brand in Australia, with sales up 6.2 per cent to 10,485 so far this year, while BMW is second with 8846 sales, representing a 4.6 per cent increase.

In contrast, Audi’s sales have fallen 12.9 per cent this year to 6947, although it should have a stronger second half on the back of the recent launch of the five-door A1 Sportback and the updated A4.




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