DETROIT – With only seven days on the job, newly appointed Audi AG CEO Rupert Stadler already is creating a buzz with the unveiling of the German auto maker’s new Audi Q7 cross/utility vehicle V12 TDI.

The Q7 V-12, first unveiled in Paris last fall and making its North American debut at the international auto show here, is the first production passenger vehicle ever to feature a 12-cyl. diesel.

With top speeds reaching 155mph, the Q7’s 6.0L twin turbo V-12 pumps out 500 hp and 737 lb.-ft. (544 Nm) of torque, reaching 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 5.5 seconds.

Details about pricing and availability currently are unavailable, but a 2008 European rollout is expected.

Stadler says 2006 marked the 11th consecutive record sales year for Audi. Worldwide deliveries grew 9.2% to 905,000 units, outperforming competitors Mercedes-Benz and BMW AG. U.S. sales jumped 8.5% in the year.

Stadler says Audi is committed to investing €11.8 billion ($15 billion) between 2006 and 2011. Of that total, more than 70% is budgeted for vehicle development, new technology and innovations.

The Q7’s diesel mill benefits from a marketing and development effort that last year resulted in Audi becoming the first auto maker to win the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race with a diesel-powered 650-hp R10 TDI.

“Our TDI technology on the track has led to some pioneering work off the track,” Stadler says.

Wolfgang Hatz, who heads Audi’s engine development, says Bluetec TDI engines meet the nation’s toughest emission standards while still providing excellent power.

Audi estimates that by 2015, diesels will be 10%-15% of the U.S. consumer car market.

Says Hatz: “We want U.S. customers to find out what their European counterparts already know, that modern diesels are also about great performance.”

egenoff@wardsauto.com