Audi Attempts to Add Humor, Luxury to Diesel Segment

Eschews Technical Details Common to Category

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Audi, which increased its diesel lineup to five vehicles this summer, today unveiled an advertising plan for its TDI models. A key message: Diesel is for savvy luxury buyers who know something the masses do not.

Audi said the spot, created by agency Venables Bell & Partners, is scheduled for heavy rotation this fall. It will be shown during programs including the superhero drama "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," the sitcom "Modern Family" and NBC's "Sunday Night Football."

It is Audi's attempt to lend emotional appeal to a choice that is often purely rational.

Most diesel fans prefer it for the technical benefits: A diesel engine offers more torque and about 30 percent better fuel economy than a gasoline engine. The downside is the sticker price, which is usually a couple thousand dollars higher because more complex exhaust aftertreatment is needed to pass tailpipe emissions standards.

Audi's sibling brand, Volkswagen, has built advertising for TDI models around the distance a driver can go without refueling. Chevrolet, which launched a diesel Cruze sedan this year, has touted its estimated 46 mpg in highway driving.

But thriftiness is a harder sell for luxury buyers, who are less pinched by fuel prices and can choose all sorts of powerful engines. Audi's 60-second spot skips the specifications, instead trying to win over buyers with the exclusivity of enjoying diesel while others stick to old misconceptions about the fuel.

"The future is Audi TDI clean diesel," the screen says at the end of the commercial. "Join the club."

For the 2014 model year, Audi launched TDI versions of the A6 sedan, A7 four-door coupe and Q5 crossover, adding to a lineup that already included the Q7 crossover and A8 sedan. Audi also plans to have a TDI engine option for the A3 sedan and Q3 compact crossover that are scheduled to go on sale in the United States next year.

The brand also has a pair of 15-second spots called "Future" and "Range" that will focus on technical benefits such as the power and fuel economy of diesel. Those will appear on the Web site of The Washington Post and through October.

--Gabe Nelson is a reporter for Automotive News.

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