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Zipping ahead in the China market
Last Updated(Beijing Time):2008-04-23 09:52

With its sales volume crossing the 100,000-unit mark last year, a 25 percent increase over 2006, German premier car producer Audi AG has strengthened its leading position in China's luxury sedan segment. The strong sales have also made China Audi's second biggest market, climbing up from the fourth position in 2006.

At the group's annual press conference last month in its headquarters Ingolstadt, Germany, Rupert Stadler, chairman of the board of management of Audi AG announced the company aims to double its China sales by 2015 to 200,000 units.

Rupert Stadler here shares his views and his company's strategy with China Daily reporter Li Fangfang.

Q: Audi beat BMW and Mercedes-Benz last year in China, becoming the top premier manufacturer with annual sales of more than 100,000 units. How will Audi repeat such success in global market?

A: The Audi board began to plan the company's strategy for long-term development several years ago. We set an ambitious annual sales target of 1.5 million units by 2015.

Of course, to achieve the goal, we will need to invest more and launch more products. In the next few years, our average investment will touch 2 billion euros.

Apart from launching new products and pumping up our investment, emerging markets are also important to reach the goal. In China, we have set a sales target of 200,000 units by 2015, which means we will bring more high-quality products to the country.

Q: What are the new products that will be seen in the China market?

A: Our products in China are very competitive. And we are manufacturing A6L and A4 locally. We have also launched some of our classic models that are popular in Europe and fit the China market as well, by importing them, such as A8L, Q7, TT and R8 Roadster. We have just unveiled our A5 coupe in China at the Beijing Auto Show this week.

We are still considering new models for China, which I cannot disclose now, but I'm sure our Chinese customers won't be disappointed.

Q: Do you have any investment plan to meet the soaring demand in China?

A: We are very pleased to see the high growth rate in China. We will improve the production capability of our facilities in Changchun, Jilin province. However, it does not mean that we will establish a new factory in China. We are considering setting up a manufacturing base in the US.

Q: Recently, Audi built a plant in India. What do you think is the difference between China and other developing markets?

A: China has a very clear positioning in Audi's global strategy. We always emphasize that China is one of the most important markets for Audi.

Compared with China, India is still young; thus the market for premier sedans is quite small. Statistics show the total sales of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz is only 3,000 to 4,000 units a year there.

We see China and India as two markets with the greatest potential. However, regarding infrastructure and investment environment, China is much better than India.

Q: The Changchun-produced A6L sedan is very popular in China, because it caters to Chinese consumers' preference for premier sedans. Therefore, is it possible Audi will launch a model tailored for the China market?

A: I have to admit that A6L contributes a lot to Audi's huge success in China.

Actually, we have a special team in our headquarters called China Experience, which regularly visits China to understand Chinese consumers and brings us back its feedback. That does not mean we will develop a model specifically for China, but will use Chinese consumers' ideas as input for our entire line-up of products.

For example, we have made our seats more comfortable, soft and functional, which is based on the preferences of our Chinese consumers.

Audi innovates products for the whole world, including China.

Q: Since the Chinese government is focusing on the energy issue, how's Audi planning its new-energy vehicles in China?

A: Audi has a detailed plan on energy conservation and environment protection. It's feasible in the short term to try and develop the models using standard fuel, such as natural gas and clean diesel. During last year's 24 hours of Le Mans, we won by using clean diesel.

In the long term, we will develop new-energy vehicles such as the ones that run on biofuel. However, the biofuel technology is still being tested and cannot be used anytime soon.

I have discussed with Chinese officials the issue of clean diesel. I am very pleased to note the government's thrust on clean energy. Therefore, when the market and the quality of diesel are ready, Audi will introduce the most advanced technology and diesel engines to China.

Q: China is the second biggest market for Audi, surpassing the US and the UK last year. Did you expect that? In the future, can China overtake Germany to be your No 1 market?

A: I am very happy with Audi's extraordinary performance in China last year. In 2006, China was the fourth biggest market for Audi, but in just one year it moved up two rungs. We have to admit the rapid development of Audi in China has gone far beyond our expectations. I am waiting to see China become the biggest market for Audi in the near future.

Source:China Daily 
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