Newly appointed head of Audi quattro GmbH, former Lamborghini boss Stephan Winkelmann, believes the company has what it takes to catch Mercedes-AMG and BMW M in terms of customer awareness and caché, once its strategy is set up and firing.
Audi quattro GmbH, the umbrella for Audi’s S, RS and R8 models and its racing, is getting an ever-greater share of the Ingolstadt marque’s resources, and is used as a technological flagship and test bed for the premium brand.
Just-appointed boss Winkelmann, who was sent across from Audi AG subsidiary Lamborghini, asked us this week in New York for time to get his feet under the proverbial desk before making bold proclamations, but said the future held ever-brighter things.
The colourful German-born, Italian-raised executive was in the Big Apple to premiere the R8 Spyder, which adds a wind-in-the-hair feel to its naturally aspirated V10 bite.
Audi quattro is already doing well, with the RS3 Sportback, imminent RS3 sedan, and staples such as the (soon-to-be-replaced) RS4, plus the RS6, RS7 and RS Q3. Its warmer S range of Audi’s line-up recently expanded to the SQ7 SUV with its electric turbos and 900Nm of torque. And don't forget the R8 e-tron electric supercar.
Clearly, Audi AG has its eyes on gazumping Mercedes-AMG and BMW’s hallowed M Division, and it’s making inroads. Audi quattro already enjoying record sales in markets including Australia. quattro GmbH sold a record 17,000 cars around the globe in 2015.
We asked Winkelmann if the next step was to add Lamborghini flair to the brand. “What I can bring is my experience in the super sports car competition. Other than that it’s too early to tell, give me time to adjust and work on what’s coming next,” he said. He was asked if Audi quattro could edge out its German rivals in future, if not in sales, at least in image terms.
“It depends on you, how [journalists] such as you beat the drum and tell the news!” he said.
“This is a journey we have to start. At the beginning it will be a bit bumpy, but I think we have lots of opportunities, and with a good strategy we can catch them all.
“I think the base is there, great product, RS and R8 products… we have to develop the story and strategy and it will fly… we will surprise you in years to come.”
A bespoke Q6 electric crossover seems certain. But what is coming next for Audi’s performance arm aside from this is unclear. Moving beyond performance derivatives with more bespoke cars such as the R8? A Formula One team to match Mercedes-Benz (a business case hurt by dieselgate)?
Who knows. We want to find out. Stay tuned.