Audi to keep investing in bid for luxury-car sales crown
* Audi capital spending to total 13 bln euros through 2016
* 8 bln euros earmarked for two main Germany-based plants
* Audi has no plans to slow the pace -CEO
By Andreas Cremer
BERLIN, Dec 27 (Reuters) - German luxury automaker Audi plans to keep spending on new vehicles, plants and technology to increase market share as a prolonged weakening in European markets forces layoffs and factory closures at volume manufacturers.
The division of Volkswagen said on Thursday it would spend 13 billion euros ($17.2 billion) through 2016 on global operations, with more than half or 8 billion earmarked for its two main Germany-based plants in Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm.
Planned investments will also sustain Audi's foreign expansion as the company sets up factories in Mexico and China and makes additions to plants in Hungary and China.
"We have no plans to take the foot off the accelerator, because when the crisis is over, there will be another recovery," Chief Executive Rupert Stadler said in an interview at Audi's Ingolstadt headquarters.
Wolfsburg-based parent VW already said on Nov. 23 it would invest 50.2 billion euros on products, plants and equipment over the next three years as it strives to replace Toyota Motor Corp. as the world's biggest auto maker by 2018 at the latest.
By stepping up investments on products and technology, VW could consolidate its lead over stricken Mediterranean peers PSA Peugeot Citroen and Fiat, which have slowed or shelved whole vehicle programmes, engine technologies and platform revamps while grappling with high fixed costs in a shrinking European market.
Audi, which aims to boost global deliveries to over 2 million cars and SUVs by 2020 as it aims to snatch the luxury sales crown from rival BMW, said it would spend over 10.5 billion euros over the next four years on upgrading and expanding its product portfolio and new technologies such as lightweight construction and electric drives.
($1 = 0.7563 euros) (editing by Jane Baird)