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German brands fight over Audi accusations

Date: 18 November 2009   |   Author: Hugh Hunston

Carmichael accused BMW of mass self-registration

BMW and Audi have become embroiled in an unseemly spat after Audi fleet boss Iain Carmichael accused his fellow premium German brand of self-registering half of its business car sales in September.

"I am not in the business of rubbishing the opposition but they overtook us in September because half of BMW's fleet sales were registered internally rather than with customers," said Carmichael. "We will let genuine consumer demand drive our volume figures."

He added: "We have changed our thinking about beating BMW and we are more than happy to plough our own furrow and live or die by the demand for our product in the real market place. We were outperformed and by a deliberate policy of self-registration. We won't go there; that is not what we are about."

BMW refuted the allegation, claiming that only 11.7% of September's fleet volume came from "internal fleet requirement". A spokesman blamed the launch of the new X1 and 5-series GT models, and registering the dealer launch cars as internal fleet units.

Carmichael also claimed Audi would extend a clear lead over its Bavarian rivals during 2010 in terms of brand image, having drawn clear of BMW this year, an independently surveyed rating which was important to its predominant user chooser clientele.

But Carmichael admitted Audi "has a lot of work still to do" in improving its customer satisfaction levels and was only slightly above the overall industry CSI average among all brands.

He said: "There has been rapid growth for the brand and growing customer expectation which has particular relevance to our core fleet drivers. Beating BMW and Mercedes may be fine and well but our long-term target is to be the overall number one, by 2015 or 2020. That involves changing behaviour and mindset within our own organisation and our network."

Carmichael said his plan for next year was to "keep fleet volumes absolutely level". He explained: "Within an overall market of 1.75 million cars our business car element will plateau. Nearly 47% of our fleet business is quality contract hire and leasing. We are determined not to overcook things."