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Audi to grow in 2012 despite early slump

Opening doors: Audi expects the five-door A1 Sportback to boost sales once it arrives in Australia later this month.

Buyers holding off for new models the reason for sales slowdown, says Audi

Audi logo5 Jun 2012

AUDI Australia is confident it will reverse a sales drop and return to growth by the end of this year – but the days of double-digit annual increases it has enjoyed since 2003 are over.

A slow start to the year – down 15.7 per cent to the end of May with only the A6 registering an increase – has been attributed to customers holding off for the arrival of new and updated volume models, with launches for the facelifted A4 sedan and five-door A1 Sportback imminent.

Audi says a similar effect was caused by the arrival of its updated A5 coupe and A5 Sportback in April.

In addition, supply of the Q3 compact SUV has been constrained as the Seat factory in Spain slowly ramps up production while it gets used to building Audis – and Australia is up against huge demand for the car from China, the UK and Germany.

May was the first month this year in which sales grew for Audi, but it sold just seven more vehicles than in the same month last year – and it remains in the red to the tune of 1044 sales year to date.

Audi managed to squeeze in its eighth consecutive year of double-digit growth in 2011 due to strong December sales, and it finished the year having shifted 14,511 units – just 489 fewer than required to achieve the company’s 2015 sales target under its (now superseded) Route 15 mid-term plan.

Speaking at the recent A6 Avant launch in Sydney, Audi Australia managing director Uwe Hagen said Audi is now “coming to the top end of the premium market”, but that competition is getting tougher.

Mr Hagen said Audi Australia is in the process of moving from rapid growth to consolidated growth and that this market is one of the “most challenging”, having remained relatively stable at around one million units annually during the past decade.

 center imageFrom top: Audi Australia managing director Uwe Hagen Audi A4 Audi Q3.

Audi Australia general manager of corporate communications Anna Burgdorf told GoAuto double-digit growth “is no longer going to be the certainty it has in the past” because the brand is “close to critical mass”.

“If we got up to 10 per cent growth, we would be thrilled,” she said.

“Realistically, we expect to see growth, but no longer at the dramatic level we have had in the past, and I think last year was the first year where you saw (that).”

Ms Burgdorf said Audi is still intent on becoming Australia’s top-selling premium car brand, and is also focussing on maintaining the company’s profitability and financial stability while striving to be “number one for customer satisfaction”.

“That’s extremely important because of the massive investments of millions of dollars with new dealerships, so it is particularly important for us that the business is financially stable,” she said.

“It is also important for us that we are number one for customer satisfaction and this is a global topic, not just for Australia … the thing for us is that we are leading in all of those areas and not just sales.

“We no longer look at that year-on-year growth, we are much more serious about getting into that number one position and getting closer to our competitors.”

Mr Hagen pointed out that the premium market has outpaced mainstream brands and diversified into smaller segments – such as Audi’s premium-light A1 and Q3 luxury compact SUV – to add further growth.

He believes the five-door A1 Sportback, which will launch in Australia later this month, is better suited to Australian tastes than the three-door and therefore an opportunity for growth, as is the facelifted A4 volume-seller, with both products to be launched simultaneously.

Mr Hagen added that Audi’s dealer expansion plan is ongoing, and three new dealers will be added by the end of this year, bringing the total to 41 and increasing the brand’s presence in regional areas.

Other Audis on the launch pad for this year are niche products and as such unlikely to add the kind of volume expected of the A1 Sportback, A4, A5 and Q3.

The high-performance RS5 will be facelifted next month, followed by the arrival of twin-turbo V8-powered S6, S7 and S8 luxury cars, plus Allroad crossover versions of the A4 and A6, while a facelift of Audi’s hot-selling Q5 SUV is due to launch early next year.

What's coming from Audi:
A1 Sportback:late June
A4 facelift:late June
RS5 facelift:July
S6, S7, S8:Q3
A6 Allroad:late Q3
A4 Allroad:early Q4
Q5 facelift:Q1 2013

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