In Europe Audi is one of the leading luxury brands but in the U.S. its sales are still lagging behind rivals like Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Lexus. Last year Audi sold just 82,716 vehicles in the U.S. while its rivals managed to rack up more than double that figure.

In an effort to catch up as well as take the brand more upmarket, Audi will be focusing on higher sales of its premium sedan models like the A6, new A8 and the upcoming A7 four-door coupe.

Speaking with Automotive News, Audi’s U.S. chief Johan de Nysschen said he expects sales of these three models to account for 25 percent of the brand’s total U.S. volume within the next five years. Together, the A8 and A6 represented about 10 percent of Audi's volume last year.

The A4 will still make up the bulk of sales--approximately 40 percent, according to de Nysschen. However, if promoted better and sold to a greater portion of affluent buyers, the A6, A7 and A8 could act as halo models and help draw more people to the brand, he explained.

The new strategy will kick off with the 2011 Audi A8, which debuts in the middle of the year. Audi is expecting sales of this model to reach up to 4,500 units per year, up from the 1,463 units for the outgoing model sold in the U.S. last year.

The A7 will follow later in the year following a world debut at next month’s 2010 Geneva Motor Show and a brand new A6 is scheduled to arrive in 2012.

[Automotive News, sub req’d]