2007 Audi A1 Metrosport ConceptEnlarge Photo
It's a busy news day in Germany: first comes word that the Porsche/VW feud is coming to an end, and now we hear that Volkswagen subsidiary, Audi, will debut a production model of its anticipated A1 minicar at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show.
Full production of the A1 is expected to begin in October. Even better -- at least for Europeans -- the A1 should roll into showrooms in the early part of 2010. The bad news? As of yet, Audi hasn't indicated any intention to bring the A1 to the U.S.
Whether the A1 could be profitable in the States is a matter for debate. On the one hand, the demand for minicars in America clearly pales in comparison to Europe and other markets. On the other hand, thanks to the popularity of brands like MINI, consumers are becoming more used to seeing minicars on the roadways, and the segment could get additional buffing with the introduction of the Fiat 500 and its variants. That could translate to higher sales potential for the A1: in the marketing world, awareness is 90% of the battle.
Also going for it: the A1 looks different from many other minicars on the road (at least in its concept form). The car's profile appears longer and sleeker, not boxy or squared off, like, say, the Smart fortwo. If anything, the A1 looks like the more sophisticated, old-moneyed cousin of the 500.
The A1 is expected to launch as a three door, but Alfons Dintner, head of the Audi plant in Brussels where the A1 will be manufactured, has indicated that a five door sportback variant will follow soon after. Unfortunately, that second version -- like the A5 Sportback (you know, the one that launched alongside an imperial grand piano last week?) -- isn't slated for U.S. release either. Perhaps as America's perception of minis and hatches change, Audi will reconsider. Stylish models like these seem like vehicles that buyers could get behind -- which would be good news to Audi and Volkswagen, as they seek to increase sales in the U.S. by 200% by calendar year 2018.