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In its latest research, Consumer Reports says Audi is staging a nice "reliability recovery," yet overall CR ranks Audi 24th out of 33 brands with Audi's Q7 SUV ranked as its worst model and the A6 its best.

Audi also ranks below average in J.D. Power's most recent Initial Quality Study and not a single Audi is ranked among the top three in any individual model categories. Audi is ranked above average in J.D. Power's longer-term Initial Quality Study, however.

Quality has an impact not just on a brand's image, but also resale values. There, interestingly enough, Automotive Lease Guide ranks Audi fourth in Canada among luxury brands for resale value after 36 months, though the Canadian Black Book says Audi is below average for 48-month residual.

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Audi officials say customer satisfaction continues to rise, while warranty costs go down, which suggests quality issues are being addressed. That's good for consumers and for Audi.

Audi has also, finally, fundamentally cut its ties with Volkswagen in Canada and the United States. Years of having a too-close relationship with VW weakened the Audi franchise and limited the resources for marketing and image-building.

Martin Sander, CEO of Audi Canada, says Audi will grow carefully, not relying on incentives that damage the brand and hurt residual values. And the product range will grow, with the image centrepiece remaining the R8 super-car.

Sander also insists that decisions for Canada are made by Audi Canada, based on approval from the bosses in Ingolstadt. The Canadian operation no longer gets approval from Audi of America in Virginia.

Even as far away as Canada, all roads for Audi lead back to Ingolstadt.

Jeremy Cato

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