For luxury carmakers, the economic downturn has been particularly harsh. But Audi has withstood the downturn better than most — the automaker’s sales are down 9.6% in the U.S. this year, compared with an overall slide of 26.7% for all luxury cars. Still, Johan de Nysschen, president of Audi’s U.S. division, says the company can’t afford to ride out the recession without making changes — it needs to continue to innovate. That is why Audi is pushing forward with clean-diesel technology, which de Nysschen believes is the quickest way to get fuel-efficient, less-polluting cars on the road. He spoke to TIME about Audi’s recent economic performance, his feelings about electric vehicles and what kind of car he would most like to have in his garage.