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Audi Australia settles down to slower growth

Leading light: Audi Australia says the $50 million investment in its Sydney ‘lighthouse’ headquarters remains a reminder of its commitment to this market.

Double-digit growth ends for Audi Australia but investment continues apace

8 Feb 2013

A STRONG start to 2013 for Audi’s core A4, A5 Sportback and Q3 models, the recent update to its top-selling Q5 and impending arrival of an all-new A3 give Audi confidence it can keep growing in Australia, despite sales almost flat-lining in 2012 after years of double-digit growth.

A tiny 0.2 per cent increase in sales last year and a similarly glacial 0.8 per cent increase in January have not deterred the German luxury car-maker from continuing to invest in its Australian dealership network and brand-building exercises.

Audi Australia general manager of corporate communications Anna Burgdorf told GoAuto the company must not grow at an unsustainable explosive rate to the detriment of profitability or brand image.

“Managing growth is probably the most critical thing for the company so we need to make sure we have got the right dealer network and that our facilities are large enough to sustain our growth,” she said.

“We needed to set in place dealerships that can cope with an increase in our car parc (the number of Audis on the road).”

Asked if profits had taken a hit due to the slower growth, Ms Burgdorf said Audi Australia remained in rude health and remained intent on eventually usurping BMW and Mercedes-Benz in Australia, even though those rivals increased sales by more than five per cent last year and continued to outpace it in January.

“We have not slowed any of our marketing or any of our activity … you would not see the level of investment as you do now if our dealerships were not committed to the future of Audi in Australia, and Australia itself remains a very profitable market for Audi AG.

“Australia is an important profit and volume contributor to the brand overall and I think we currently come 11th or 12th (in the world) for export markets.”

The Q3 compact SUV that was launched last March sold 1472 units in Australia last year, almost single-handedly keeping Audi in the black as most models experienced a double-digit sales slump.

Of the existing models, only the A5 Sportback and Q5 were up, with respectively growth of 2.7 per cent and 1.0 per cent.

Ms Burgdorf said 2012 would have been stronger had there not been upgrades to so many of its most important models, particularly the A4 and A5, which slowed sales in March and April as the pre-facelift versions were run out.

In January this year, sales of those models have bounced back 30.8 per cent (A4) and 45.8 per cent (A5 Sportback), while the A1 light car is up 32.8 per cent and the respectable 193 Q3s were shifted but the majority models remained well down and overall Audi sold just 11 more cars than it had by the same time last year.

Ms Burgdorf agreed that Audi is conservative about the potential volume-boosting effects of the new A3 in May as it faces strong competition from the aggressively priced Mercedes-Benz A-Class and Volvo V40.

“We will do what we always do and be as competitive as possible our plan is to offer the A3 at the strongest possible value that we can,” she said.

“Our goal is to be the best premium compact car on the market that is not to take away from anyone else but that is our position and that is the market we will go for.”

Apart from the A3, Audi’s 2013 launch calendar in Australia is all about high-performance models, with Biturbo TDI variants of the A6 and A7, the RS4 Avant and TT RS, a facelifted R8 supercar, the hot SQ5 SUV, a convertible RS5 and bahn-storming RS6 Avant.

Ms Burgdorf said the stream of exciting products will continue apace, with at least two new “highlights” set to be revealed internationally during the course of the year.

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