Despite sales dip, Audi Australia boss remains positive, with renewed customer focus
AUDI sales are down in Australia to the tune of 16.8 per cent at the end of September, but the local operation’s recently appointed director Jeff Mannering has his sights clearly set on improving customer experience.
“I don’t think we will (reach parity with 2021 numbers), and it’s purely based on supply,” Mr Mannering told GoAuto at a recent SQ7 and SQ8 launch event.
“Every manufacturer has had the same issue, and the whole VW group has been affected.”
Mr Mannering, who earlier in his career held senior aftersales roles at Audi Australia before taking a tour of top jobs at Audi Middle East, Audi Singapore, and most recently Audi Korea, wants to redefine the Audi experience for Australian customers.
“Our image and awareness need to be in a great place. Do we want to necessarily sell more cars than the other Germans? Not necessarily,” he explained.
“What we want to do, and it’s part of the challenge, is establish what you get when you buy an Audi. Do you just get a car, and then everybody forgets about you? Are you a number, or do you get a total experience?
“We’ve spent a lot of time and effort on the showroom experience. We’ve got work to do and we’re changing the experience in the showroom and how we talk to our customers.”
Audi Australia product manager Matthew Dale said “listening to customers” led to the introduction of a longer five-year warranty across the Audi Australia line-up.
Part of the customer experience at the moment is managing vehicle delivery times and Mr Mannering said his colleagues were working closely with Audi dealers to speed up lead times by offering discounts for changes in specification.
“One of the things we did in Australia is actually talking to the customers and saying, ‘look, we can get you a car, but it might not have a reverse camera or something like that’,” he explained.
Customers are being credited for the exclusion of long lead-time items, but Mr Dale said they still have the option to wait for their ideal vehicle specification.
“It’s about choice. It’s offering the customer the choice and saying, ‘we’ll get you a car in that specification with no downgrades,’ but then it comes to the timeline and whether they are willing to wait,” he said.
“Our dealer network are extremely open with their customers; they provide the estimated time frame for cars. Or, if you want the car now and timing is of the essence, we can downgrade a particular specification but give a refund for that element.”
Despite traditionally competing with other premium German brands BMW and Mercedes-Benz in Australia, Mr Mannering said the competitive landscape has broadened.
“We’re looking at the other Germans, however everybody is a competitor these days; I don’t think there’s a bad car on the market,” Mr Mannering said.
When quizzed on an Australian arrival date for the Q4 e-tron electric small SUV, Mr Mannering did not provide a timeframe, however he did say Audi Australia is pushing to get the model Down Under.
“If I had a wish, I’d have it here today. The game is changing, it’s coming very fast, and we’re communicating with the factories saying, ‘guys, we need it now’.
“Now is not tomorrow, it could be in the next 12 or 24 months, but it’s high on our focus list.”
Despite the Q4 e-Tron remaining up in the air, the e-Tron GT flagship is coming and Mr Dale said he expected it to do big things for the brand.
“The e-Tron GT is going to be a brand-shaper for us. The next 24 months to 46 months are going to be very good for Audi,” Mr Dale said.
Expected in Australian showrooms late this year, the e-tron GT is priced from $181,700 before on-road costs and options for the base model.
Those who want the 475kW RS version, though, will need to set aside $249,700 before on-roads and options.