Audi Targets Steady 2012 Profit as Spending Offsets Growth

Volkswagen AG’s Audi brand forecast 2012 profit to hold steady as slowing European economic growth and spending on factories and new vehicles offset higher worldwide deliveries.

“Audi plans an operating result on the same record level as the previous year, despite higher spending on models and technology,” Chief Financial Officer Axel Strotbek said in a speech at the company’s annual shareholders meeting today at its Ingolstadt, Germany headquarters. “In western Europe, we are confronted with particularly challenging market conditions.”

Audi, the world’s second-largest maker of luxury cars, forecasts sales will increase as long as economic conditions don’t deteriorate significantly, the Volkswagen unit said today.

The brand intends to grow faster than the auto industry by introducing 18 models this year, including a new generation A3 compact and a hybrid version of the A6 sedan.

Operating profit reached 5.35 billion euros ($6.9 billion) in 2011, and climbed 27 in the first quarter of 2012 to a record 1.4 billion euros while sales gained 18 percent to 12.4 billion euros.

Chasing BMW

The Volkswagen unit is expanding as it looks to overtake Bayerische Motoren Werke AG as the world’s largest luxury-car maker. Audi agreed last month to purchase Italian motorcycle maker Ducati. It also plans to start producing cars in Mexico by 2016 at its first factory in North America.

Audi Chief Executive Officer Rupert Stadler said that the company expects this year to sell more than 130,000 vehicles in the U.S., which would be a record. The brand’s sales reached 117,561 in 2011, less than half as many as competitors BMW or Daimler AG.

“By 2015 we want to double the number of diesel engines in the U.S.A.,” 49-year-old Stadler added. Audi delivered 1.3 million vehicles globally last year.

Shares in parent VW declined as much as 1.7 percent to 123.85 euros, and were trading 0.4 percent lower as of 1:52 p.m. in Frankfurt.

Audi, whose revenue in the Asia-Pacific region topped 12 billion euros in 2011, expects China’s premium car segment to grow more than 20 percent this year, while Audi’s sales rise 8 percent, Peter Schwarzenbauer, head of sales, told shareholders. The company also forecast unit sales in Russia will top 30,000 this year.

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