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Audi On Demand car rental coming to Australia

R8 it: Australian drivers will be able to sample high-end Audi cars such as the R8 via the company’s On Demand rental service from 2020.

Rent-an-Audi app primed for launch in major Australian cities by 2020

Audi logo13 Jul 2017

By DANIEL DEGASPERI

AUDI has confirmed plans to launch its On Demand car rental service in Australia by 2020, with local dealerships potentially in line to help bring the initiative to local shores.

Audi AG head of mobility Bettina Bernhardt said motorists would be able to select any vehicle from the Ingolstadt car-maker’s model range via a smartphone app, and have the vehicle delivered to them.

“It (Audi On Demand) is a new offer for customers, which means flexible usage of premium cars,” she told GoAuto at the international media launch of the Audi A8 in Barcelona, Spain, this week.

“You pay per usage, so you order a car and you pay the amount of money for the amount of time you use the car. In different locations you can book a car from one hour, to up to one day, one weekend, one week, up to three months – that is our target for this program.

“So Australia – and we have a close contact with our fleets there – expressed interest, and we are interested also to push it.” Pilot programs have been established in Beijing, Munich airport and San Francisco, with user habits and feedback noted to fine-tune the initiative.

Statistics show 50 per cent of renters use Audi On Demand as an extended test drive, while 30 per cent use it to try performance cars.

“There are many effects, which we learned about already in other markets, which are quite important also to put that together and to also work with the different features and also with the models,” Ms Bernhardt said.

“In some countries we see cars (that) are mostly requested. And that partly differs from city to city, but we can adapt that. So you take cars in, you take other cars out. But there’s not a main rule for that.

“It’s very interesting to see some customers who prefer the (A3) e-tron. At Munich airport the RS6 Avant is the most booked model.

“In San Francisco, many people go over the weekend for skiing in winter, so they do not have a car but they use the Q7. We do not have a rule behind (it) so we have to learn.” The aim was for Audi On Demand to sit a step above oft-criticised rental car companies but without being stratospherically expensive. It was also seen as a key link for the brand to engage with city-based millennials who do not own a vehicle, and compete with other vehicle-sharing services.

But Ms Bernhard suggested that insurance costs would not be prohibitively hefty, and Audi On Demand would not merely be a brand-building “loss leader”.

“There’s a business model behind it (Audi On Demand), so it has to be profitable,” Ms Bernhard said. “It’s not a marketing topic – it’s a business model for sure.” Ms Bernhard said the customers had treated the vehicles well most of the time.

“They get a high-quality car and they use it like this, so it’s (abuse) not an issue,” she said.

Asked if the stigma around less-than-perfect condition of rental cars could impact the Audi brand, Ms Bernhard replied: “Not really. You see if you have the experience and book the product and you get the car delivered, or you go and pick up the car, you will see the difference.

“It's a different kind of quality. We don’t get the cars in and five minutes later we give them out. We are more expensive than, say, a volume model if you rent that, but it’s more about the experience so you should get (to) experience the quality of the car.” A maximum 10,000km limit would apply to all rental vehicles before they were removed from the fleet.

Ms Bernhardt said plans for Australia were not locked in, but this market would be included in the planning up to 2020.

“To be honest, I think it will concentrate on the main cities – we’re talking about urban Australia,” she said.

“I think mainly we’re talking always about Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane … there are some more, but in general, we will start and normally start with one city within the country and then expand to other locations.” Asked if the size and scope of a separate Audi On Demand fleet would mean an expansion of current Audi Australia headquarters or lean upon local dealerships, Ms Bernhard replied: “That will be defined market-by-market.” “We need someone who really operates it, but we will also include the dealerships because they have the cars and they are also ready with locations in the cities, which we can use, and the dealers are part of our network anyway,” she said.

“We could use service loaners so that the dealers already have a greater fleet on their premises already, which can be used for that. Maybe also Audi Australia headquarters can then install additional fleet.”

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