When just 32 cars bearing the four rings found homes in the UK in 1965, it would have seemed improbable that an incredible two million more would follow, but this major milestone has today been reached by Audi UK almost fifty years later.
The first four-ringed car sold to a UK customer was a ‘compact executive’ in a model range of just one, internally codenamed the F103 and publicly known simply as ‘The Audi’. It was to be the springboard for a range that in 2015 numbers some 51 model types ranging from subcompact city cars to ten-cylinder supercars, and which has recently welcomed the A3 Sportback e-tron, the brand’s first ever plug-in hybrid and the two millionth car to be handed over to a UK customer.
As parent company Audi AG edges ever closer to selling two million cars globally in a single year – around 1,741,000 cars were delivered to customers worldwide in 2014 – its UK importer has just cumulatively broken through the two million barrier buoyed by more than two decades of recession-resistant sales strength, during which time its trajectory has been upward in all but three years. From a base of just 14,344 cars in 1991, the brand exceeded 100,000 annual sales for the first time in 2007, and in 2014 posted a total of 158,987 deliveries.
Director of Audi UK André Konsbruck marked the momentous occasion by saying: “It’s hugely gratifying for the team in the UK to reach this significant milestone in the brand’s history in the UK, but it’s the contributory figures lying behind the headline number which really speak volumes about our recent past and our future aspirations. Domestically the brand has risen from humble beginnings in the Sixties to become the leader in the premium segment, and the last two decades have delivered virtually constant, and in all but three years record-breaking, growth. These are really robust foundations on which we plan to build consistently and substantially with the help of an ever expanding portfolio of models.”
Ingolstadt born and bred
‘The Audi’ which projected the green shoots of this abundant growth was built by Auto Union AG, the conglomerate whose emblem contained a ring representing each of its four constituent companies Audi, DKW, Horch and Wanderer. It was assembled at the company’s Ingolstadt plant in Bavaria, Germany, which remains the headquarters of the modern day Audi brand to this day, and it was the first car to leave the production line with a four-stroke engine rather than the more commonplace two-stroke design. In terms of horsepower, the 1700cc engine produced 72PS, a fraction of the 570PS available in the most powerful production Audi to head the current range – the limited edition R8 LMX. Priced at £160,000 OTR, its 5.2-litre V10 powerplant is capable of propelling the supercar to 62mph in just 3.4 seconds and on to a top speed of 198mph.
Available as a two-door ‘coupé’, four-door saloon or estate, ‘The Audi’ was essentially the precursor to the Audi 80 and 90, which went on to form the conceptual basis of the A4, the compact executive saloon which sparked a revolution for the Audi brand in 1995 and began to decisively cement its position as a fully fledged member of the premium sector establishment.
Two million cars further down the line, the model that has posted the milestone for Audi UK combines a conventional 1.4-litre TFSI petrol engine with an electric motor to deliver the potential for up to 176mpg with CO2 emissions of just 37g/km.
The latest electric plug-in hybrid variant of the Audi A3, which was crowned World Car of the Year in 2014, can run exclusively on electric power for up to 31 miles at speeds of up to 80mph, or can be powered by petrol combustion alone. When the two power sources are combined, an overall operating range of up to 584 miles is possible. The battery powering the electric motor can be charged by plugging the A3 Sportback e-tron into a home wallbox for as little as two hours and fifteen minutes.