UPDATE 2-Audi sees lower profitability as invests to catch BMW

martes 10 de marzo de 2015 10:50 GYT

* 2015 profit to show impact of "extensive expenditure" -CFO

* Audi targets 2015 sales record, expects to outpace markets

* Sees "moderate" sales rise after 2014 record 53.8 bln eur (adds comments from analyst, R&D boss)

By Andreas Cremer

INGOLSTADT, Germany, March 10 (Reuters) - Audi's profit margins could fall again this year as it invests in its drive to overtake German rival BMW as the world's biggest seller of luxury cars, it said on Tuesday.

The forecast highlights the cut-throat battle at the premium end of the auto market, where Audi has sold more cars than BMW in the first two months of this year, but third-placed Mercedes-Benz is closing the gap on both of its bigger competitors.

Audi, the profit engine of Europe's biggest carmaker Volkswagen (VW), plans to expand its model range to 60 upmarket cars and sport-utility vehicles (SUV) by 2020 from 52 now, and is investing more than 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) in new factories in Mexico and Brazil.

But the heavy spending is squeezing margins, at a time when the industry is fighting to attract buyers amid slowing demand in emerging markets and a sluggish recovery in Europe.

"Audi has been pushing discounts comparable to volume brands, they are hooked on the idea of becoming the top (luxury) seller," said Evercore ISI analyst Arndt Ellinghorst, who has a hold rating on VW stock.   Continuación...