JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Gerd Klauss held his final media event here last week as vice president in charge of Audi of America Inc. On Jan. 1 he will become head of Volkswagen of America Inc. He was interviewed Monday, Oct. 26, by Staff Reporter Ralph Kisiel. Here are his edited remarks.
BMW and other automakers are developing sport wagons. How will that affect Audi Avant sales?
We don't really fear that they are coming in. We feel validated by that approach. The more that come in, the more they will talk about it.
Audi has hot product right now. Will dealers continue to see limited availability on some models?
That has been an issue the last couple of years. We've been a little bit tight on supply. We had in the beginning of the year a 1.8-month dealer supply, so it was a bit tight. But we have improved that. We have been working very hard with Germany to get the allocation, and in fairness Germany has given us an over-proportionate share.
How does parent Audi AG view the market in the United States?
We have been declared by Ingolstadt as a strategic market. It means they look at our market as a growth market, as a market they want a strong foothold in, and that has allowed us to get a bit of a higher allocation of these hot products. So by the middle of the year we had a somewhat better supply-demand ratio. But in 1999 and probably 2000 there will continue to be tight niches - for example, the Audi TT Coupe.
What kind of allocation do you expect of the new TT Coupe?
Next year we will get about 4,500 of those cars, but that is not a full year.
In the second year we are looking for 10,000, which is a nice number, a strong number. But we still think that 10,000 is not enough for this market. But we think it will not be so tight that dealers get upset, have no offers and can't satisfy the market. It gives us the argument to say to Germany, look we need those cars faster.
What advice do you have for Len Hunt, director of Audi U.K., who will replace you as head of Audi of America on Jan. 1?
The momentum that has built up at Audi will not take care of itself. I will say to my successor, stay close to your dealers and the marketplace, stay close with (Ingolstadt), and fight for your marketplace and your beliefs. Audi is a success across the world, so there are many hungry children sitting in front of the pizza oven who must be fed. So you have to fight to get what's good for America.