LONDON - Dermot Kelly, who has helped transform Skoda's brand image and sales performance in Britain during the past four years, is taking over as managing director of Audi U.K. from Len Hunt, who will head up Audi North America as of Jan. 1.
The appointment is part of a reshuffle within Volkswagen Group's British operation. Kelly's replacement at Skoda U.K. will be Rob Tracey, who has held senior management posts with both Seat, VW's Spanish subsidiary, and Skoda.
Kelly, who joined Skoda after 18 years at Ford Motor Co., leaves the Czech carmaker on track to sell 24,500 cars this year, more than double its sales of 12,013 in 1994, when he signed on.
Kelly, less vocal and gung-ho than Hunt, a self-styled 'brand terrorist,' faces the challenge of consolidating Audi's move upmarket and completing the establishment of the marque's separate premium franchise within the VW Group's four-brand approach.
His main priorities are to improve Audi's customer loyalty rate, which at around 40 percent is less than half the equivalent Skoda loyalty level.
'There is no point in gaining customers if they don't choose an Audi the next time,' Kelly said. 'Brand loyalty is vital in such a competitive sector.'
He also will focus on strengthening Audi's used-car residual values and enhancing the customers' service experience as part of a push to differentiate Audi from other premium German products.
'I am a staunch believer in brand building. At Audi I will look, listen and learn,' he said.
Hunt, 43, describes himself as an 'infrastructure builder, not a salesman.' On his watch, Audi's U.K. volume has climbed from 23,000 in 1995 to an expected 40,000 this year.
Hunt, formerly with Jaguar, joined Audi in 1994. He relishes his new role in the United States.
'In a relative U.S. context, we are not going to sell a lot of cars,' he said. 'My aim is to move from 35,000 annually to 100,000 ultimately. We must build an infrastructure to go with it. Emotionalizing the brand is at the core.'