The Volkswagen Group (VG) is a formidable force within the motoring industry. Contributing to a staggering 24.4% of all new car sales made in Western Europe in 2012 (Volkswagen AG, 2013), the 12 brands that make up a group that spans seven European countries are clearly of high importance. But Audi, one of the group’s original brands, has played a pivotal role in the development of the Group, largely thanks to its recent success in sales and technological developments.
But before we delve into the achievements of Audi within the VG, we should first consider its sister brands; all 12 of them to be exact. Because it’s the Group’s diversity and wide market coverage that has ensured its large scale success is sustainable.
Take Bugatti for example, the hypercar builder that folded back in the 60s and featured in a failed Italian revival in the 90s. Bugatti has seen great success under Volkswagen ownership and is now recognised as one of the world’s most pioneering car makers, ever. The Veyron, a car that even nine years on has Ferraris shaking in their boots, is nothing short of an engineering masterpiece. With its original record breaking top speed of 253mph (Parkers.co.uk), it was only because of the financial might of Volkswagen that this car ever even left the drawing boards. Costing more to produce than its retail price, the Veyron is certainly not a businessman’s dream product. Instead it has served as a demonstration of what the Volkswagen Group can do, utilising the Group’s own W16 powerplant that essentially stretches its routes back to the VR6 engine, but with the added ten cylinders is able to produce a neck snatching 1000bhp. Profits may not be in order, but respect certainly is. Bugatti, it seems, is mightier than ever thanks to its German owners.
But Volkswagen has done far more than just throw money at a manufacturer to show off might and power. It has also demonstrated the mature and calculated business approaches to car manufacturing that enabled it to become a parent company in the first place. Buying Bentley, the long-standing British luxury sports car maker in 1998, Volkswagen was able to bring influence to craft what was a dying brand into the maker of one of the world’s favourite grand tourers. The Continental GT was the first car produced under VG management, and is now the marque’s most successful car of all time, bringing Bentley into the ‘mass-production’ market for the first time.
VG has also been involved in the purchasing of already strong manufacturers such as Porsche, MAN and Scania (yes, the the lorry builders), as well as injecting success into potentially dying supercar brands such as Lamborghini. It’s purchase of SEAT has seen shared VG platforms sell well with a latin twist, whilst the saviour of SKODA, once the laughing stock of motoring and now a respected affordable carmaker, has shown that VG is truly a game changing company. In recent years VG has also strived to enter new markets, with the purchase of Ducati thrusting the company into the world of two-wheels with one of the most desirable and respected motorcycle brands.
Of course Volkswagen Passenger Cars and Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, the original companies behind the Group itself, are both fantastic stories of success originating from the popularity of the post-war Beetle. But Audi, the name given to the group once titled as Auto Union, is also perhaps an equally exciting story. Volkswagen’s purchase of the Four Ringed brand didn’t just secure its future as a motoring giant, it enabled the original dream of the Audi brand to be lived, with performance based cars being produced as its flagship models.
Rather than converting it into another mass-production people carrier, VG gave Audi the underpinnings to produce some of the world’s most pioneering, exciting and capable sports and super cars. The R8 V10 is a perfect example of this, hunting down far more expensive supercar brands whilst offering comfort and usability that its rivals can barely match. Since its acquisition in the late sixties and VG Audi production commencing in 1970, the Audi brand has been allowed to grow more than its siblings, becoming ‘second parent’ to brands within the VG, Lamborghini and SEAT being the main influencees.
Such is the power of Audi within VG, that the marque has grown to produce cars in nine different production facilities in eight countries, whilst technology and innovation has largely been led by the Audi branch. Even under ownership, Audi has really been allowed to flourish. And this flourishing has happened as such a scale, that the VG group is often incorrectly called the Volkswagon Audi Group. It’s certainly safe to say that Audi is far more than just a VG sibling.
Volkswagen AG, 2013. [Online] Available at: http://www.volkswagenag.com/content/vwcorp/content/en/the_group.html
Parkers.co.uk. [Online] Available at: http://www.parkers.co.uk/cars/reviews/bugatti/veyron/coupe-2006/driving-performance/
VolkswagenAG.com. [Online] Available at: http://www.volkswagenag.com/content/vwcorp/content/en/the_group.html and http://www.volkswagenag.com/content/vwcorp/content/en/brands_and_products.html