Audi con­fi­dent of re­tain­ing lead in 2016

The Pak Banker - - COMPANIES/BOSS -

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.

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