PHOENIX - Bad press nearly ruined Audi in the late 80's.

Now, despite recently taking similar jabs from the European and American press concerning vehicle safety - or lack thereof, Audi embarks on what Len Hunt, VP of Audi of America, calls "a performance initiative."

It's part of the German automaker's steadfast climb back to Tier One status.

Spearheading this endeavor are the TT Roadsters and Coupes - which epitomize Audi's four rings: advance technology, emotion, performance and design.

Mr. Hunt says, "We don't want to be another BMW. We don't want to be another Jaguar. We think we can go for unique positioning, which is 'the most premium, progressive brand in the market.'"

How does Audi plan to achieve this unique status?

Audi's new sales and marketing campaign relies heavily on the all-new TT Roadster, which Mr. Hunt says is Audi's, "hero car, a brand-defining car, which every maker wants."

Despite low allocations across North America, Audi is encouraging its dealers to keep at least one TT Roadster on the showroom floor because of its "magnet-like effect."

The ad campaign is fully integrated with the existing one, launched in October -"Follow the Road Signs." Audi is attempting to define and show performance in a very clear and distinct, the Audi way.

"Just to show performance as spinning wheels and throwing up dust would not do justice to what Audi is," says marketing director Walter Hanek.

Print ads in a variety of lifestyle and automotive magazines will "hit the head and heart," he says.

The ads feature road signs with unique captions, coupled with stunning pictures.

For example, "Emotional package free of charge" is the text accompanying a photo of a TT Roadster cruising down Highway 1 in California.

In addition, the TT Roadster will be featured for just under six minutes in the upcoming film, "Mission Impossible II," which starts May 24.

An A8 and an A6 Avant will appear in the film, as well.

Mr. Hanek says, "We're starting to do more things with Hollywood."