Special Coverage

Frankfurt Auto Show

FRANKFURT – The eighth-generation Audi A4, scheduled to arrive in European showrooms in November, will start at €26,000 ($34,943), the auto maker announces at the Frankfurt international auto show here.

Featuring five engine choices, each of which is equipped with direct injection, the A4 represents the “backbone” of Audi, accounting for total sales of more than 8 million units, CEO Rupert Stadler says.

The car will make its U.S. debut “later on” in 2008, Stadler tells Ward’s before fielding questions from a horde of international journalists on hand for the unveiling of the 580-hp Audi RS6 Avant.

Stadler says the auto maker will reach its 2007 profit goal on global sales that are expected to hit 950,000 units – a 5% hike over the 905,000 vehicles sold in 2006. Through August, sales stood at 656,600 – a 9.2% gain on like-2006.

In Europe, the A4 offers a choice of engines, ranging from a V-6 TDI to one of two 4-cyl. turbodiesels, a 3.2L V-6 and 1.8L I-4. Enhancing performance is a 309-lb. (140-kg) reduction in curb weight. The new A4 equipped with an available 1.8L TFSI mill weighs in at 3,109 lbs. (1,410 kg).

The weight reduction was accomplished primarily through the use of “tailored blanks” – pieces of high-strength steel that are thicker in areas where stress is greatest.

Safety technology available includes a lane-departure warning system and a radar-based lane-change assist feature, both of which already are available on the Audi Q7 cross/utility vehicle.

A4 production starts next week, Stadler says.

Meanwhile, Audi’s RS6 performance specifications draw a gasp from the throng of journalists when Stadler says the car is powered by a twin-turbo V-10. However, he is mum on volume – as he is for the A4.

“It depends on the market,” Stadler tells Ward’s. “It is not for big volumes. It is a niche car – the perfect car that expresses the values of Audi.”

The RS6, available only in the Avant body style, will arrive in Europe next year. However, Stadler deflects a question about whether U.S. buyers can expect to see the vehicle in 2008.

“I will not make a commitment,” he says.

emayne@wardsauto.com