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VW gets serious about customer service
New Volkswagen boss vows that volume growth will be matched by better customer care
2 Nov 2009
CONSOLIDATING Volkswagen’s massive growth in Australia since 2004 is the top priority of Volkswagen Group Australia’s managing director Anke Koeckler, who has spent less than two months at the helm.
Speaking at the media launch of the latest Golf GTI, the 13-year Volkswagen veteran said an emphasis on customer quality rather than striving for sales volumes was vital for the long-term stability of VGA and central to her plans for Australia.
This included improving Volkswagen’s relationship with customers, new and old, as well as dealers’ level of customer service – areas that even Volkswagen will quietly admit it has not always kept pace during the almost threefold sales increase enjoyed since 2004 when annual numbers rocketed from fewer than 10,000 to almost 30,000 units last year.
“First I have to make sure we continue on the successful path we have undertaken over the last five years,” she said.
“Therefore I am working very closely with my team, which is in place, and now also our dealers, because our dealers are the first contact with our customers.
From top: Volkswagen Group Australia MD Anke Koeckler, VW Golf R, VW Jetta.
“There is a lot of work still to go with our dealers, but we have the processes behind and everything is done.
“We also want to ensure that we have customer retention within our company … from basic things (like picking up the phone when they call) to real customer relations management – and (this is what) we are working on at this point.
“If we have this in place, then we can also demand the same from our dealers.
“(But most) of the dealers are professionals so they already know this. I only need to make sure they know what the brand stands for.
“We also have to make sure that the people that are behind (the scenes at Volkswagen’s dealers) are well trained … we have to make sure there is proper training, compulsory training.”
Ms Koeckler said that while there were no moves to increase dealership numbers for the time being, there will be more Volkswagen representation starting at the end of next year.
“We will appoint more dealers (eventually), but I don’t think (many) more. We need some in rural regions, but we are well covered in the cities. But we are not in a rush right now.”
Driving the need for higher dealer numbers will be the increased volume expected from a raft of new models due over the next two years.
“We have to make sure that we get good product to launch, and we will have new products next year, so we will have the right products and the right place at the right time,” Ms Koeckler said.
“And the same goes for Skoda.”
The facelifted Jetta range will arrive this month, followed by the debut of the Golf wagon for Australia, to broaden the premium small car’s reach with customers.
The refreshed T5 Transporter commercial vehicle range arrives early next year, but the big news will be the launch of the all-new, fifth-generation Polo light car in the second quarter of 2010, addressing one of the weak spots in Volkswagen’s Australian new-car line-up.
“So far, if you follow the (initial high sales figures of the new model in Europe), I would say that the same can happen here as well … and we are getting a very high retention from the customer side.
“It is a very good opportunity for us to even strengthen our position here in Australia with the Polo, for sure, I am convinced about that one. I will not tell you right now the kind of figures (Volkswagen is projecting sales-wise) but we will certainly sell more cars and find more customers with the Polo.
“Right now the old model is in its last year and it is in a period of decline, but this is normal.”
And what about the Scirocco?“I won’t say that we are not considering it,” Ms Koeckler said.
“But there has to be volume in it, and a place for it, and this is what we have to check. It’s not off the program, but we haven’t yet decided if (it will go ahead).
“There is also the Golf R (the high-performance, 199kW 2.0-litre turbo all-wheel drive replacement for the flagship Golf R36 due in the middle of 2010), and you are focussing on the same, sporty orientated customer (as the Scirocco).
“And you can only sell them one of your cars – Golf GTI, Golf R, Scirocco. And that market is not so huge in Australia, and we want to make sure we don’t have too many units. And it is quite expensive to launch a new car, and you have to make sure it is profitable for our dealers.”
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