2013 Audi R8 e-tron with 8:09.099 Nürburgring lap time

2013 Audi R8 e-tron with 8:09.099 Nürburgring lap time

Volkswagen and its subsidiaries, including Audi, have been in hot pursuit of an industry-topping sales rank for the past several years, but the widespread economic downturn is shaping up to put those plans on hold.

Previously, Audi had hoped to be the number one brand in luxury car sales by 2015, with the automaker previously forecasting an annual sales rate of around 1.5 million vehicles by then.

According to latest comments from Audi CEO Rupert Stadler, made during a recent interview with German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung (via Reuters), Audi’s ambitious target may have to be pushed back by as much as five years.

New target is 2020

Stadler is claimed to have stated that Audi’s goal to become the world's top seller of luxury cars will now happen no later than 2020.

Though he didn’t mention how many sales he expects Audi to have by that date, Stadler has since revealed some very positive results for this year. He said Audi’s sales are up 12.3 percent for the first six months of this year and that the automaker is on track for an annual sales amount of 1.4 million vehicles, a new record.

Audi overtook Mercedes-Benz in 2011 to become the second highest selling luxury car brand in the world after BMW, but for Stadler, it’s not simply about overtaking BMW in the near future, but to overtake it and secure the top position.

Audi faces slowing growth and more competition

Standing in Audi's way are several major hurdles despite the impressive results announced by Stadler. Growth in Europe, currently at 2.8 percent, is down on last year due to the current financial situation and hopes of China picking up the slack are also starting to fade with news emerging that growth is starting to slow there as well. Rival brand Mercedes-Benz said its sales in June saw the slowest growth all year, due mostly to lower than expected results in China.

The other major hurdle is that BMW has no intention of losing the top spot and Mercedes-Benz is keen to reclaim its previously-held second position and eventually the top spot. Both rivals are working on a new generation of small cars for global sales, which means Audi’s model range will be facing much more competition than ever very soon.