Audi confident of retaining lead in 2016
German premium carmaker Audi AG defended its market leadership in China last year despite 1.4 percent fewer deliveries than 2014, and announced its electrification and digitization strategy for 2016.
Rupert Stadler, chairman of the board of management at Audi AG, told the annual news conference at the company's headquarters in Ingolstadt: "We were the undisputed No 1 in the premium segment in China in 2015. With more than 570,000 automobiles delivered, we continue to achieve very high sales there.
"People were unsettled there by a series of equity-price fluctuations on the stock markets and uncertainty in the real estate market," he said. "And the overall car market contracted over several months. But the market stabilized again significantly toward the end of the year."
In 2015, 512,198 Audi cars locally built by FAW-Volkswagen Automotive Co were delivered. The Changchun-based joint venture earned 40.5 billion euros ($44.15 billion) last year, a drop of 5.5 percent from the previous year, and made 4.7 billion euros in profit, 9 million euros less than in 2014.
Axel Strotbek, member of the board of management at Audi AG responsible for finance and organization, attributed the slowdown to a lower growth rate in the Chinese premium market, and intense competition.
Strotbek said, "In China, we anticipate positive demand stimulus from the revised long version of the Audi A6, the new Q7 and later this year from the next generation A4 series."
Stadler said: "We decided to consolidate in 2016. This meant continuing our focus on customer satisfaction and profitability. Our Chinese product portfolio is about to go through a broad-based generation change. By this summer, we will replace models that make up 60 percent of our unit sales in China."
With the new Audi Q2 making its world premiere on March 1 at the 86th International Motor Show in Geneva, the company intends to conquer a new market segment and continue the success story of the Q family. However, there's no specific information about bringing the latest small urban SUV to the Chinese market.
"China is and will continue to be a very solid growth market in the long term, with great potential for the Audi brand," Stadler said, and the company has multiplied its sales sevenfold since 2006 in the country.
The Audi Group plans to launch more than 20 new or revised models, gain new customers and continue its growth in 2016. It aims to achieve an operating return on sales ranging from 8 to 10 percent this year, and anticipates a moderate increase in the number of cars delivered. As a result of strong demand, Audi AG achieved record worldwide deliveries of 1.8 million units, up 3.6 percent from 1.7 million units a year earlier. The Ingolstadt-based company also achieved a new record for revenue, at 58.4 billion euros. Audi is developing in key areas of electrification and digitization, and is making automobiles digital.
Stadler said, "We will invest, in 2016 alone, more than 3 billion euros for the mobility of tomorrow, and we will push forward with the electrification and digitization of our products."
The first locally manufactured new-energy model, the Audi A6 L Plug-in Hybrid, is set to launch in the fourth quarter, expecting to leverage policies that make owners eligible for free license plates in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, and government subsidies in 88 cities. FAW-Volkswagen plans to conduct research and development on traction batteries to power its automobiles.
Stefan Knirsch, member of the board of management responsible for technical development, said, "We will meet all the government requirements" regarding battery technologies.
He said Audi's user experience research and technology development are going to be carried out in the planned Volkswagen Future Center.
Volkswagen AG announced three new "Volkswagen Group Future Centers" in Potsdam, Germany; California, the United States; and China, on March 1 in Geneva at the Volkswagen Group Night event. Designers and digitalization experts will work together on the "car of the future" at these centers.
Dietmar Voggenreiter, member of the board of management responsible for sales and marketing, gave the infotainment system in the Q7 as an example of localized digitalization.
"The R&D team in Beijing with more than 400 staff members decided to use larger touch pads for the Chinese market, after they surveyed more than 200 Chinese customers for their feedback." Stephan Winkelmann, president and CEO of Automobili Lamborghini SpA, said: "Greater China is Lamborghini's second-largest market, after North America.