Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Audi Readies Hybrid, Clean Diesel Versions of A6 for U.S. Market

Audi Readies Hybrid, Clean Diesel Versions of A6 for U.S. Market: "
Audi A6

Audi is said to be preparing to bring a hybrid version of its A6 luxury vehicle to the United States. According to several media reports, the carmaker plans to release the A6 hybrid in U.S. sometime during the 2012 calendar year, and the car has recently appeared on the EPA's website on a list of upcoming hybrids, with a 2012 release date. The news contradicts recent rumors that the vehicle won't make it to North America for several years—or possibly at all.

But for the A6 hybrid, the real question isn't so much “how soon,” as “how much, and “how many?” According to Car and Driver, the hybrid will likely start “somewhere north of $55,000” placing it at least $13,000 higher than the standard A6, a similar price premium to that seen in other Volkswagen Group hybrids like the Audi Q5 or Volkswagen Touareg.

How much extra fuel economy can drivers expect in exchange for the possible 25-percent price premium? The EPA reports 25 mpg city and 33 mpg highway ratings for the standard, gas-powered 2012 4-cylinder A6. Under the European test cycle the A6 hybrid is expected to achieve about a 38 mpg combined rating—meaning that Americans may see a combined EPA rating in the low 30s.

The car's closest competitor may be the Infiniti M35 hybrid, which debuted this year and features a price tag of nearly $54,000, with a combined rating of 29 mpg. Though that car offers vastly superior horsepower to what is expected from the A6, as of last month, it had sold a total of just 111 units in the United States since its release early this year. So will the Audi A6 hybrid be produced in significant numbers or marketed aggressively enough to really make a dent in the U.S. market?

That same question might also be asked of the clean diesel TDI version of the A6, which Audi will likely bring to the U.S. around the same time as the hybrid, and has similar power numbers, and reportedly, a similar price point to the hybrid. The Audi A6 will one of just a few cars offered here in gas, clean diesel and hybrid models. If that's indeed the case, one can imagine that a heavy portion of the A6's U.S. sales are likely to come from the $42,000 base A6 model, whose fuel economy is already rather impressive for a gas-only luxury performance sedan.

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