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Audi ups the ante

Adding up: Audi Australia managing director Joerg Hofmann is using the company's long-time ambassador, Olympic medallist Ian Thorpe, in its press and TV campaigns for the first time.

A "buy back" scheme, new models and smarter advertising aim to boost Audi sales

Audi logo18 Feb 2005

AUDI Australia managing director Joerg Hofmann has promised a 25 per cent lift in sales for 2005, or else he'll be packing his bags.

"And I don't intend to leave. I like it here," he said.

His comments came at the new A3 Sportback model's launch late last month, after Mr Hofmann was asked to comment on Audi's dismal sales performance in 2004.

Only 3701 vehicles were registered, against 2003's 4450 units.

Better product, smarter advertising and improved dealers are high on Audi's agenda, after sales collapsed by 20 per cent in a year of record new car sales.

"The Sportback is a new concept for Audi with its coupe styling but also because it is practical,” Mr Hofmann said.

"It is the right car for Australia."In December, Audi successfully launched its A4 'buy back' offer, an agreed-value guarantee its dealers are offering after three years.

Mr Hofmann said the response to the offer had been "extremely exciting" and Audi has since implemented the program for the A6 and a special lease deal on the TT.

‘Buy back’ will move on to the runout A4 in March, with the A8 following in April, and so on through the whole Audi range.

"This is how we'll move through the whole year," Mr Hofmann said. "We now have a strong focus on selling.

"We are firing all bullets, shaking the tree, to shake the competition."Mr Hofmann said he was also attempting to convince Audi head office to bring its engineers to Australia to test its cars locally, so it can tailor future models to better cope in our conditions.

Sweeping changes at a dealer level, designed to improve customer relations and product knowledge, is also promised – even though they rate number two globally in Audi’s international index for customer satisfaction.

Audi is also using its long-time ambassador, Olympic medallist Ian Thorpe, in its press and TV campaigns for the first time (and they may go international), for the Sportback.

"Ian Thorpe matches Audi brand values worldwide because he also is athletic and sporty," Mr Hofmann said.

And Audi has pulled out of its Pace Car involvement.

"That was the first thing I did when I arrived ... I did not see the benefit of it at all. It completely missed our audience," he said.

Aligning Audi to luxury brands like Bang and Olufsson and Prada - a strategy that proved very successful in lifting Audi's profile in Japan where Mr Hofmann presided between 2000 and 2002 - is also on the cards.

"I don't see why at motor shows we cannot have a fashion parade on the same stands as Audis," he said.

But the new boss, who arrived late last year to replace Graham Hardy after three years at the helm, is realistic about his task.

He said it took BMW 20 years to achieve its 14,860 sales total in Australia last year.

"First we need to increase the growth rate, and then the volume of sales," Mr Hofmann said.

He wants to sell 6000 Audis in Australia by 2008 and 10,000 not long after that.

Underpinning this is an influx of new niche models, starting with the B7 A4 facelift next month and S4 Cabriolet and A6 Avant later this year.

In 2005 there will be the important TT Mk2 and then things go up a gear with a trio of SUVs (Allroad Mk2, the Q7 X5-competitior and the X3-rivalling Q5) - which should secure the company's sales targets.

"I want to sell at least 1000 Q7s a year", Mr Hofmann told GoAuto.

Audi would also like to sell at least 500 of the still secret, BMW 3 Series coupe-rivalling A5 from 2007.

And Mr Hofmann has a warning for BMW: "Whatever they do, we will beat them.

"We know exactly what we are doing. We are not flying blind. We are pressing the right buttons now."

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