Audi Canada president Wolfgang Hoffmann was in Vancouver last week to help celebrate the opening of yet another brand new dealership. Surrounded by the invited guests sipping Bollinger and nibbling on canapés provided by the ultra-trendy Hawksworth restaurant, Hoffmann had two big things on his mind: selling Audis and winning Le Mans.
"Will you win on the weekend, beat Porsche?" I asked.
"Of course," said Hoffmann.
Sunday's 24 Hours of Le Mans promises to be one of the most exciting and intriguing editions of this legendary endurance race in years . Twelve-time and defending champion Audi, as Hoffmann pointed out, has every intention of winning yet again. Especially since Porsche – a fellow Volkswagen Group luxury brand – is back competing at the highest level – the LMP1 class.
Porsche's two 919 hybrids have blistered the tracks leading up to Sunday's race, and while it's nice to be quick, it's even more important to endure in a 24-hour race. If Porsche's Le Mans hybrids – untested in this magnificent race – suffer reliability problems, then Audi and Toyota will be right there waiting to pounce.
Audi's hybrid entry is reputed to be very reliable, as Hoffmann also noted. And Toyota's hybrid has been both reliable and fast in six-hour races this year. I'll be watching as much of this race as possible at the weekend, remembering the three Le Mans races I've attended. What a racing spectacle. If this experience isn't on your bucket list, put it there now.
The Hoffmanns of the world will be watching not just for the thrill of the competition, but also to boost their various brands and by extension sell cars. Win on Sunday, sell on Monday still applies.
When Audi started its modern era commitment to Le Mans in 2000, annual global sales sat at about 650,000. Twelve Le Mans wins later, Audi's sales hit 1.58 million in 2013.
This year, Audi aims to get within striking distance of BMW as the world's No. 1 premium auto maker by sales. BMW's lead in 2013 was a mere 79,000 units, with Mercedes-Benz in third place, more than 100,000 units behind Audi. Winning Le Mans is a brand-building exercise that Audi believes bolsters its effort to unseat BMW, which has been king of the luxury cars since 2005.
This year's Le Mans is also a technology test, with fuel efficiency a premium. In particular, mandatory hybrid systems will demand engineering excellence from the various brands. Toyota has made a global name for itself with hybrids, but Audi and Porsche are keen to prove they have mastered dual power train technology. Winning Le Mans will help prove the point.
Racing helps build brands and strong brands do not need to bother with profit-sapping discounts as much as weak ones. Audi does not revel in offering up to $3,000 in factory discounts on the 2014 S4 sedan – discounts that can be combined with 2.90 per cent financing for 48 or 60 months. The factory $3,000 includes a $1,000 Le Mans deal available June 13-14 in Ontario and June 14-15 in British Columbia. Also add in potential dealer discounts that could exceed $3,600.
Car companies and their dealers will always play the incentive game, though winning on Sunday not only helps sales on Monday, it helps ensure bigger profits. Sunday's race matter very much indeed to Audi, Porsche and Toyota.
As for other deals, Fiat has healthy $2,500 factory offer on the very quick 500 Sport, Chevrolet has jumped into the employee pricing race and is offering additional discounts of nearly $6,000 on the Silverado pickup. And Acura is pushing the last of the TL sedans out the door with a $6,250 factory deal, plus potential dealer discounts.
Deals of the Week consulted with unhaggle.com, Car Help Canada, carcostcanada.com, and other sources on these offers. As usual, pricing information here is subject to change and dealer discounts vary, so consult your dealer for the final details, including expiry dates for all offers.
2014 Audi S4 4 door Sedan Auto Technik
- MSRP: $59,400
- Freight, dealer prep, air conditioning tax: $2,130
- Dealer discount (estimated): $3,600
- Factory discount: $2,000 (manufacturer incentive)
- Factory discount: $1,000 (Loyalty incentive)
- Taxable subtotal: $54,930
- Total price with 13% HST: $62,070.90
- Manufacturer incentive money 2.90% financing for 48 or 60 months or a 2.90% lease rate for 48 months
2014 FIAT 500 Sport
- MSRP: $18,995
- Freight, dealer prep and air conditioning tax: $1,830
- Dealer discount (estimated): $770
- Factory discount: $2,500 (manufacturer incentive)
- Taxable subtotal: $17,555
- Total price with 13% HST: $19,837.15
- Manufacturer incentives available with 0.0% financing for 48 or 60 months
2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 2WD Reg Cab Standard Box LT w/1LT
- MSRP: $31,020
- Freight, dealer prep, AC tax: $1,830
- Dealer discount (estimated): $1,900
- Factory discount: $2,000 (manufacturer incentive)
- Factory discount: $3,765 (Employee Pricing discount)
- Taxable subtotal: $25,185
- Total price with 13% HST: $28,459.05
- Cash incentives available with 2.99% financing for 48 or 60 months or 2.90% lease rate for 48 months.
2014 Acura TL AWD with Elite Package
- MSRP: $49,590
- Freight, PDI, AC tax: $2,130
- Dealer discount (estimated): $3,000
- Factory discount: $6,250 (manufacturer incentive)
- Taxable subtotal: $42,470
- Total price with 13% HST: $47,991.10
- A manufacturer incentive of $5,250 is available with 2.90% financing for 48 or 60 months or a 0.90% lease rate for 48 months.
Pricing information source: unhaggle.com and carcostcanada.com. Calculations based on Ontario customers. Please note that while the information above is accurate at the time of publication, incentives are given at the discretion of individual dealers, and may be changed or discontinued at any time. Where noted, "dealer discounts" are negotiated with the customer on a case-by-case basis. Unhaggle Savings are actual discounts received by Unhaggle customers.
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