More stories related to 2005 NAIAS DETROIT – Saying Audi of America Inc. will sell more vehicles this year than the 78,000-plus units the company moved in 2004, Johan de Nyssthen, recently installed executive vice president, promises the surging upscale unit of Volkswagen AG will focus on “comfortable growth” this year.

Although Audi’s 2004 worldwide sales of 779,000 units was an all-time high, de Nyssthen says the U.S. subsidiary is “not aiming for another record,” despite the fact it will introduce five new models – the refreshed A4, the S4, the A6 Avant, the S8 and the all-new A3 entry 5-door – in an action-packed next seven months.

Despite the new-model onslaught, de Nyssthen says the only sales target for 2005 is “more than 2004.”

Echoing the promise of Audi AG Board of Management Chairman Martin Winterkorn, de Nyssthen says Audi also plans to lead in the U.S. market with the introduction of the next-generation diesel technology that will comply with the new, severely low federal Tier II and California LEV II emissions mandates.

Audi Allroad concept highlights intention to lead with diesel in North America.

Specifically, he tells Ward’s Audi plans to introduce diesels for the U.S. market in the 2007-2008 timeframe.

“Diesel is one of the core competencies at Audi,” he says. He adds the company is “a little reluctant” to introduce diesel technology until it can do so with diesel-powered models that can be sold in all 50 U.S. states.

Thanks to the LEV II standards already in effect in California and the four Northeast states that have adopted California emissions standards, auto makers currently selling diesels are excluded from those states because the diesels are unable to meet oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and particulate emissions limits.

De Nyssthen says when Audi does introduce diesels in the U.S., it likely will come in the upper range, perhaps the A8 flagship or the upcoming Q7 SUV.

Another possibility is the next-generation Allroad, which Audi shows at the Detroit auto show here in concept form.

Among several notable innovations, the Allroad concept showcases a 4L DOHC V-8 TDI turbodiesel – the first V-8 diesel, says Audi, to feature sophisticated piezohydraulic fuel injectors and a diesel particulate filter Audi says makes the engine compliant with Euro IV emissions standards coming into effect next year.

The new 4L TDI V-8 develops 286 hp and 479 lb.-ft. (650 Nm) of torque.

The Allroad quattro concept also features a sophisticated sensor technology that combines infrared and laser sensors to “read” road conditions.

Audi says the system, reading the road ahead, can not only distinguish between wet, dry, and icy road surfaces but also can evaluate specific surface grip such as concrete, asphalt or gravel.

bvisnic@primediabusiness.com