In what is being increasingly played out in the mature automobile markets in the world, German carmaker Audi intends to further thin-slice the booming mini-SUV segment in Europe.
And it aims to do that with an all-new offering that will be smaller than its best-selling Q3 model (pictured), confirming the many rumours coming out of Ingolstadt of just such a car, which might be badged the Q1.
This line of badging the crossover-subcompact mini-SUV as the Q1 will mean an extension of Audi’s famous Q-range of SUVs, which already includes the Q7, the Q5 and the Q3 with a larger and more powerful Q9 also in the pipeline but that’s another story altogether!
The new Q1 assumes importance, given the fact that buyers these days prefer to have small hatchback-sized cars wearing SUV-style bodywork, and Audi’s move to offer products at the premium end of this segment is indicative of thought being mirrored in Munich, Stuttgart and elsewhere as well.
The new Q1 is expected to roll out as early as 2016, thanks to the VW Group’s unique MQB manufacturing protocol that marries aggregates across the group’s major car brands not just as regards economy of scale but also time to market.
Word coming out from Germany suggests that the new Q1 would be based on the floor pan of the present-generation VW Polo and employ engines presently doing duty in the Audi A1 sub-compact hatchback sold in Europe. Given the move to alternate drivetrains, a plug-in hybrid Q1 is also on the cards, the award winning 1.2-litre TSI petrol engine aided by an electric motor providing the propulsion for such a variant.
A very clear line of thought to illustrate the trend of consumers towards small compacts styled to ape the SUV fold is the fact that Audi’s research suggests that there wouldn’t be the need to equip the Q1 with Quattro all wheel drive and that it would be designed and offered with front wheel drive only. If this indeed should happen it would mark a tectonic shift for the car brand which lords it over all else both within the huge VW Group and also in the global premium car segment.
One is already witnessing the trend towards mini-SUVs smaller than Q3 with the Opel Mokka being a prime indicator. In fact, even Mercedes-Benz has begun work on just such a sort of small offering that is code-named as the X-class with first models due to see light of day in 2018. Within the VW Group, there is already evidence of such a vehicle with VW’s Taigun, which is also seriously being looked at for India within the next year-and-a-half. Again based on the Polo floor pan, the Taigun and the Q1 could be just the recipe of hunting in pairs as we have seen the Audi Q7 and the VW Touareg as well as the Audi Q5 and the VW Tiguan perform with aplomb. Sheer market statistics also indicate the micro-mini-SUV category is bound to proliferate. IHS Automotive suggests that Europe alone could see sales of such cars explode from a shade over 300,000 units as of the present to almost double that by 2016, making the case for such vehicles absolutely imperative.
Given that VW in India hasn’t quite got off to a flyer with its Polo and Vento duo, the best way to spin off all new models keeping existing base architectures intact to save on production costs and development time would work best if cars like the Taigun and the Q1 could also be manufactured here in India.
VW’s sprawling manufacturing facility at Chakan near Pune is well equipped and has finally found its feet on the quality front. Now, all it needs to start humming with legendary German efficiency are relevant products in sync with customer expectations. The Taigun and Q1 fit the bill nicely on all counts. Watch this space.