POWER PLAY­ERS

Top-shelf brands use track days to lure buy­ers — and re­peat cus­tomers

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page - JOSHUA DOWL­ING

Sell­ing cars in the top end of town is not as easy as you might think — peo­ple who can af­ford $200,000-plus for a ve­hi­cle are of­ten too busy mak­ing money to spend it. To lure prospec­tive buy­ers, lux­ury brands host drive days where cus­tomers can push a car to the lim­its on a race track or skid pan.

About half the peo­ple who turn up pay nearly $1000 to at­tend. The other half are “hot prospect” po­ten­tial buy­ers, so the dealer picks up the tab.

The one-day events roam from cir­cuit to cir­cuit across Aus­tralia.

Audi has hosted more than 8000 at­ten­dees on 355 track days over the past six years.

From those days alone, Audi has sold more than 250 high-per­for­mance cars, which doesn’t sound like much from that num­ber of 8000 guests — un­til you learn the av­er­age trans­ac­tion price is be­tween $180,000 and $200,000.

The 3 per cent con­ver­sion rate also doesn’t in­clude non high-per­for­mance Audi mod­els. More than half the at­ten­dees al­ready own an Audi and many have more than one in the drive­way.

Be­yond sell­ing cars Audi says its drive ex­pe­ri­ence days are about giv­ing ex­ist­ing cus­tomers and po­ten­tial buy­ers “ex­po­sure” to the brand, some­thing that so­cial me­dia or bill­board ad­ver­tis­ing can’t de­liver.

“This is the best way to show off a per­for­mance car and a per­for­mance brand,” says Audi Aus­tralia spokesman Shaun Cleary.

“If we talk about dif­fer­ent stages of the buy­ing process, this (track ex­pe­ri­ence day) is not just about aware­ness … it’s also about turn­ing a prospec­tive cus­tomer into a cus­tomer for the first time, or an ex­ist­ing cus­tomer into a cus­tomer again.”

There are no dealer sales staff at the events and Audi says the ex­perts who run the day are not try­ing to sell cars.

“It’s not a tra­di­tional sales en­vi­ron­ment,” says Audi se­nior prod­uct man­ager Matthew Dale. “The peo­ple be­ing sent by their deal­er­ship … if they’re in­ter­ested in a par­tic­u­lar ve­hi­cle, they go back to their pre­ferred dealer.

“We’re here to show them what our cars can do and an­swer any ques­tions they may have. They get to ex­pe­ri­ence the car for them­selves, form their own view.”

Some of Audi’s new­est buy­ers have come from un­likely brands — they are for­mer high­per­for­mance Ford and Holden cus­tomers. They are in the mi­nor­ity but in­creas­ingly, Audi says, buy­ers are com­ing over af­ter pre­vi­ously own­ing a Holden Spe­cial Ve­hi­cles V8 or a fast Ford.

For Audi’s S3 and RS3 hot hatch, Dale says, “We see a lot of peo­ple com­ing out of (Volk­swa­gen) Golf R, Golf GTI, Re­nault Me­gane RS.”

That said, it’s not a boys’ club. About 10 per cent of at­ten­dees are women but in re­sponse to grow­ing num­bers Audi has be­gun adding women-only days.

Even though the drive days cost big bucks to run — Audi had 38 high per­for­mance mod­els on hand at its most re­cent track day at The Bend in South Aus­tralia, from the RS3 hatch to the R8 su­per­car — they are open to any­one who can af­ford the ex­pe­ri­ence. The start­ing price is $900 and the cost in­creases through five lev­els. At­ten­dees must grad­u­ate through each stage to en­sure they have the skills to han­dle the higher speeds.

Even if they don’t buy a car, the brand’s hope is they will be­come “de facto brand am­bas­sadors” — non-own­ers who sing the praises of its mod­els.

PRES­TIGE

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