FRANKFURT (Bloomberg) -- Audi plans a range-topping SUV that will go on sale before the end of the decade, CEO Rupert Stadler said. Dubbed the Q8, the SUV would be aimed at markets such as the U.S., China and the Middle East, where large coupe-styled SUVs are in demand.
Audi is "working heavily on this project," Stadler said in an interview at Bloomberg’s headquarters in New York.
Audi unveiled a revamped version of the Q7 at the Detroit auto show last week. A bigger model "would strengthen the brand. I'm convinced we need the car by 2020," Stadler said.
An expanded SUV offering could help Audi gain ground in the U.S., where it only sells about half as many cars as its two German competitors.
Even so, Audi will face even more competition by the time the new upscale SUV hits showrooms. BMW announced plans last year to add its own full-sized SUV, the X7, which could beat Audi’s Q8 to showrooms.
Meanwhile, Bentley, a Volkswagen unit like Audi, will present the Bentayga later this year, which the British marque boasts will be the world’s most luxurious and expensive SUV. Maserati is finalizing the Levante, and Jaguar will start selling its first crossover, the mid-sized F-Pace, in 2016.
Despite more models vying for buyers, Audi is upbeat on its prospects in the U.S., where SUVs have continued to gain in popularity and there is space for luxury brands to grow.
In the coming years, high-end autos could account for as much as 13 percent of the U.S. market, up from about 10 percent now, Stadler said. And after outselling its rivals in other major markets, Audi believes it can repeat that feat in the U.S. "We did it in China, we did in Europe. Why shouldn’t it happen in the U.S. at some point?" Stadler said.