Audi CEO: Auto industry faces tougher year in 2012

Sun Dec 25, 2011 6:19am EST
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By Irene Preisinger

Ingolstadt, GERMANY (Reuters) - The automotive industry faces a tougher year in 2012 than it has done this year, Audi (NSUG.DE: Quote) Chief Executive Rupert Stadler told Reuters in an interview for release on Sunday.

"But this should not be a reason to fall into pessimism," he said, adding that the automotive industry will continue to grow over the next 10 years thanks to the enormous appetite for mobility among people in developing economies.

Stadler also denied speculation in the German media that he might be a successor for Audi parent Volkswagen's (VOWG_p.DE: Quote) CEO, Martin Winterkorn, when he steps down at the end of 2016.

He said he expects China's automotive market to grow 8 to 9 percent, with its premium segment expanding 20 percent or even 30 percent, though he did not give a timeframe.

Audi is the market leader in the luxury segment in China, well ahead of German rivals BMW (BMWG.DE: Quote) and Daimler AG's (DAIGn.DE: Quote) Mercedes.

Stadler, who has set a goal of making Audi the world's top premium car maker by 2015, told Reuters carmakers have a better chance of growing in the premium segment because emerging markets like China will produce a crop of millionaires in dollar terms.

Audi is aiming for the top position in the United States, which has the world's biggest premium segment at nearly 2 million cars, he said. The company currently runs behind both BMW and Mercedes in that market.

He said a new production plant there would help, but it was still unclear where the facility would be based.   Continued...