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Audi still shooting for number one

Heading home: Before heading off to head-up Audi Ireland, Andrew Doyle spent more than five years as Audi Australia sales general manager.

Mild growth projected for 2013, but Audi still guns for premium sales mantle by 2020

23 Apr 2013

AUDI is projecting a second successive year of moderate, single-digit sales growth in Australia, but remains confident of overtaking BMW and Mercedes-Benz by the end of the decade.

Speaking this week at a media briefing, recently appointed Audi Australia managing director Andrew Doyle outlined the company’s strategy to not only grow sales in the short term, but to consolidate its position in the long term.

Key to this plan is a range of new model lines, led by the new A3 but also including the addition of several new RS “halo” models, as well as significant investment in its existing dealer network, staff training programs and customer retention initiatives.

Mr Doyle said the company aimed to achieve at least 15,000 sales this year – two years ahead of a schedule it first set itself in 2006. The target seems modest, considering it sold 4064 vehicles in the first quarter, up 18.2 per cent on last year.

Regardless, any growth would be a better result than 2012, a year in which the company shifted 14,535 units and essentially tread water (annual sales grew 0.2 per cent).

While conceding the company will not match its German foes this year, Mr Doyle remained confident it would close the gap in time - despite both rivals, particularly Mercedes-Benz, forecasting strong growth of their own.

“We probably won’t catch our competitors in 2013, maybe not even 2015, but the important thing to note is that over time the Audi brand has grown and we have been catching up every year,” he said.

“Over the past six years, the company has gone from between 30 and 35 per cent of Mercedes’ and BMW’s passenger volume, figures that are now around 80 and 90 per cent respectively.”

It is all part of Audi’s wider, global plan to be the world’s leading premium brand by 2020. But, according to Mr Doyle, it's not just about sales, but also about arming its existing dealers to handle the strains of this continued growth.

“Being number one isn’t just about sales,” he said, pointing to a plan to make Audi’s dealer network number one in profitability, employee satisfaction and customer experience.

As such, the company will chip in $51.5 million in 2013-14 to help upgrade several key regional and metropolitan dealers, and will make significant investments in training service advisors, as well as boosting its ‘lifestyle’ affiliations to better retain existing buyers.

The company’s dealer expansion plans include re-worked sites in regional centres such as Toowoomba, New England and Wollongong, the previously reported $25 million upgrade of its flagship Melbourne site, and a renovation of its site in the Melbourne suburb of Doncaster.

Also on the agenda is a new Audi Centre Sydney service centre in early 2014, set to be Australia’s largest. The centre will comprise one floor of a new development, and will share space with a shopping centre and a gym.

But while the company is working on helping franchisees improve their existing dealer sites, it will not take on new applications for now. Mr Doyle said the company was happy with its 37-strong network.

Mr Doyle said the company would also grow the number of approved aluminium repairers to 15 (from just two in 2005), take on a record number of apprentices this year (with 100 new trainees), and boost training for service advisors to better communicate with owners.

As reported, the main addition to Audi’s product portfolio will be the all-new A3 Sportback in May – a key volume driver that will compete in the bustling premium small-car segment against the new Benz A-Class, among others.

But the company will also look to boost its “sporty and premium profile” by adding a range of hot niche models such as the SQ5 (May), RS5 cabriolet (August), RS6 Avant (October) and S3 hot hatch in December.

In 2014, this will expand further with the new S8, RS7, S3 sedan and an RS version of the Q3 small crossover SUV.

According to Audi Australia general manager of corporate communications Anna Burgdorf, the addition of more flagship S and RS halo models has the potential to result in trickle-down sales for lesser versions within each model family.

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