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Audi really needs to establish a performance brand

BMW has the famous M Division and Mercedes-Benz has AMG. These two subdivisions have been some of the most famous in automotive history. Just say M or AMG to any car enthusiast and watch them get all giddy with excitement. There’s a level of prestige associate with those brands from years and years of creating incredible performance cars under a brand name people can recognize. Audi doesn’t have this and it needs it, desperately.

Audi R8 V10 Plus Floret Silver
Audi R8 V10

This isn’t to say that Audi hasn’t had great performance cars, because it has. Audi has had some of the coolest performance cars in the history of the automobile. The original Quattro, the RS2, RS4, RS6 and R8 are all cars that will live on for decades to come. However, they don’t fall under a subbrand of Audi that people can really get behind. Sure, they wear an RS badge and are under Audi’s Quattro GmbH, but that isn’t enough. About 90 percent of car enthusiasts have never heard of the Quattro GmbH division of Audi. Almost everyone has heard of the Quattro all-wheel drive system it’s named after, but no one knows that it’s also a separate division that makes all of Audi’s RS models and the R8. So there’s no brand prestige behind the RS models as there isn’t much of a brand to follow, like BMW’s M or Mercedes-Benz’s AMG.

Audi, admittedly, is trying to create a new motorsport division, unimaginatively named Audi Sport, but it doesn’t seem to be catching on well. Audi has only started it just a couple of months ago and is only testing the waters of it in Australia for now, so we’ll see how a year treats the Audi Sport brand, hopefully it will take off. But it won’t go very far if Audi doesn’t stick with it.

Audi_rs4_PHhero_021-L
B5 Audi RS4

Audi recently made the S8 Plus, which is a more extreme version of the standard S8, as there won’t be an RS8. However, Audi also just recently announced RS6 and RS7 Performance models, when the Audi RS models are supposed to be performance cars already, so why add the Performance title to them? So are the Sport models or Plus models or Performance models? It’s all very confusing and Audi doesn’t seem to want to make up its mind. This is only hurting the brand’s sporting reputation. It needs a brand that it can stand behind an to use to flex its performance muscles.

But to do so, Audi must just pick a brand and put everything it has behind it. The Audi Sport brand, while not too cleverly named, is good enough to create that prestigious brand name. The idea was to get people thinking about Audi’s motorsport heritage, with all of its Le Mans wins and rally races. So that’s good, as these prestigious brands must always start with history. Audi does have a strong motorsport history in which to stand behind, so this could work. But it needs to drop the Plus and Performance monikers, as they just sound ridiculous. Call RS models, “Audi Sport RS whatever”. This way, Audi Sport is associated with every single high performance model and nothing else. But Audi must remain steadfast in creating this image or it will continue to struggle with taking on BMW’s M or Mercedes’ AMG.

Audi RS6 Avant
Audi RS6 Avant

The RS4 is a damn fine car, but it sells in fractions of the numbers of how many people buy the BMW M3. Is it because the M3 is that much better than the RS4? No, it’s because BMW’s M3 is probably the most well known and well respected performance saloon in the world. And that didn’t happen overnight, BMW spent decades developing the M Division’s reputation. But it had to start sometime and Audi needs to start sometime and that sometime needs to be now.

Nico DeMattia

I've been in love with cars since I was a kid, specifically German cars. Now I get to drive them talk about them on the internet.