Audi Plans to Add Flagship, Electric SUVs to Overtake BMW

Audi AG plans to add a new flagship sport utility vehicle as well as an electric-powered crossover as the world’s second-largest luxury car brand targets overtaking BMW.

To expand its lineup to 60 models from 52 by 2020, the new top-of-the-line Q8 SUV will go on sale in 2019 and a sport electric model in 2018, Chief Executive Officer Rupert Stadler said in a speech prepared for the carmaker’s annual shareholders meeting Friday in Neckarsulm, Germany. The company will also add the entry-level subcompact Q1 next year.

Audi, the biggest earnings contributor at parent Volkswagen AG, plans to invest 24 billion euros ($27 billion) through 2019 to add new models and expand its production network. This year, it’s introducing fresh versions of the flagship Q7 SUV and the two-seat TT sports car.

“We have big plans in 2015 for our global growth path,” said Stadler. “We intend to continue growing this year as well –- faster than the world market and in all regions.”

The new Q8 and electric SUVs are aimed at bolstering the Ingolstadt-based manufacturer’s appeal in markets such as the U.S. and China as it closes the gap to BMW AG’s namesake brand. Audi is also seeking to keep ahead of fast-growing Mercedes-Benz, the current No. 3, which has the same target. Audi outsold BMW’s namesake brand in deliveries in April and stayed ahead of Daimler AG’s Mercedes.

Audi has little time to lose in adding crossovers as Munich-based BMW already complemented its SUV range with coupe-style variants like the X6 and the X4. Mercedes has reacted with the GLE Coupe.

Aside from its German rivals, Audi will face even more competition by the time the new upscale SUV hits showrooms. Bentley, also a VW luxury-car marque, will present the Bentayga later this year that the British division boasts will be the world’s most luxurious and expensive SUV. The high-end Maserati brand of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV is getting ready to introduce the Levante, and Tata Motors Ltd.’s Jaguar will start selling its first crossover, the mid-sized F-PACE, in 2016.

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