AWARD WINNER'S INTERVIEW: Six of the best
04 March 2008
Audi won a stunning six prizes in the BusinessCar Awards 2008. Here Iain Carmichael, fleet boss, reveals Audi's secrets of success to Tom Webster
What does winning the six awards mean to Audi?
All awards are gratefully received. However, as the BusinessCar Awards are voted for by the readership - rather than an appointed panel - these offer a real barometer as to where we are within the fleet market.
Clearly it's an honour to receive six awards. It's a real testimony to the strength of the brand, the quality and desirability of the product as well as the work that we do at Audi UK to ensure that we maximise the opportunity from the fleet market.
What affect do they have?
They do create a feel-good factor in our business and more importantly in the dealer network. Additionally, we have the benefit of more drivers and fleet managers realising that we take the fleet market seriously, and now perhaps consider Audi for the first time or extend the Audi offering within their businesses.
Why do you think people have voted for Audi?
It's a real variety of factors! Firstly it is about our brand image. We are perceived to be the premium manufacturer of choice for many drivers.
Secondly, it is about the product. We increasingly have a broad range of product offering something to all fleet users - from the 119g/km CO2 A3 to the new A5 coupe to the SUV Q7.
Additionally it is about the service we offer - both from Audi UK to our end user customers and the contract hire and leasing industry, and from our dealer network to the local business customers and the company car drivers they look after so well.
To that end, do you feel that with the four rings symbol you would be able to sell any old car regardless of the vehicle's quality?
No - product quality is a key component and strength of the Audi brand; we are frequently quoted as the benchmark for our interiors. While a strong brand image is important, it is imperative this is backed up by product that delivers the brand claim. In a fast-moving competitive market like ours success would be short-lived without quality product.
What have you done in the past 12 months that sets you apart from other manufacturers?
There are three things. Firstly, we have been consistent in our approach to the market.
Secondly, we have been highly consultative in our approach, building strong relationships with the contract hire and leasing industry and end-users alike.
Lastly, through our dealer network partners we have placed a real emphasis on the local business market, delivering strong growth from this area.
How would you assess last year's performance?
Simply stunning! It was our 10th year of record volume; we launched amazing new product like the R8 and A5; our dealer network was fully engaged with their local business marketplace; and we had a record fleet performance ahead of BMW! It doesn't get much better!
What have you got coming up in the next year that will be of interest to fleets?
Well, there's the launch of the all-new A4, bringing a raft of new technology to this sector, and we will have had a full year of the A5 with the introduction of a range of more fleet-oriented engines. There's also an A3 Cabriolet, an S3 Sportback and at the end of the year the new Q5 SUV. That's not even mentioning the stunning 580PS RS6! So there will be a continued development of our product range, with new products entering new segments, all of which will I'm sure attract both new and existing customers.
What is the biggest challenge facing Audi this year?
I guess that this will be keeping up with demand and managing customer expectations around lead times. We have a modest growth plan for this year, generally delivered by the new product introductions. We have no plans to drive volume for volume sake with our key models the A3, A4 and A6. It is far more important to maintain the RV of our range - for both retail and fleet customers.
Apart from managing supply, a key focus for Audi will be improving the customer experience in every contact with the brand, from initial contact, to the sales process and ultimately service and maintenance.
And finally, what do you think your chances are of completing the hat-trick of BusinessCar Manufacturer of the Year awards?
I feel that we are in a great place just now. But our key concern has to be complacency and taking our customers for granted. I am adamant that we will continue to focus on customer need, continue to be consultative in our approach to the fleet marketplace and continue to develop the focus and expertise within the Audi Centre network. If we mange to do all of these then hopefully we will be well placed to complete the hat-trick.