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Audi lets customers have the soft option

Buyers of Audi's best-seller, the A3, will be able to specify softer standard suspension at no extra cost even when they buy top-line models that are normally fitted with firmer sports suspension.

The change was introduced at the weekend with the launch of the A3 Cabriolet and will be available across the complete line-up of eight A3 models.

Julie Salisbury, A3 and TT product manager for Audi UK, said that she anticipates about half of all buyers will opt for the softer suspension which is also expected to be made available on other Audi models.

Four out of every ten A3 buyers go for the top S-Line trim which normally has its suspension lowered by 15mm (it is lowered by 25mm for those who specify sports suspension) but this firmer ride doesn't suit everyone, especially with the notorious state of the UK's roads, she said.

Cabriolet sales are expected to stay constant at around 3,400-4,500 a year and account for between 8% and 10% of A3 sales.

The arrival of the A3 cabriolet takes the total number of Audi models on sale in the UK to 48 from just six in 1998 and 17 in 2000.

Ben Fish, product marketing manager for Audi UK, said that growth was in response to customer demand "and being clever in certain niches. If we don't offer exactly what a customer wants, they will go elsewhere," he said, adding that every model Audi sells is profitable for both the dealer network and Audi. "We don't have a single model subsidising another one," he said.

The A3 cabriolet replaces the A4 soft-top in the line-up, a car that for many defined Audi.

"There was a huge fondness for the A4 cabrio," said Fish, adding that since the A3 cabrio is based on the slightly longer saloon version of the A3 and is "designed for purpose" it does the same job as the original A4 cabrio in terms of having a very balanced look.

Audi dealers have marked the launch of the A3 cabriolet with a ten-day ‘open' season which started on Saturday.

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