With growth comes pain. And for Audi of America Inc.'s dealers, that means a wait of four months or more for vehicles in the wake of a 39 percent increase in sales last year.
To cut delivery time, Jens Neumann, chairman of Volkswagen AG's North American region, told Audi dealers the manufacturer will open new ports of entry in San Diego and Brunswick, Ga., this year.
Audi already uses ports in Houston and Wilmington, Del., to ship cars into the United States. The new ports will cut vehicle delivery time to two months.
Jerry Miller, chairman of Audi's national dealer council, liked what he heard. 'They're prepared for growth,' said Miller, an owner of Dan Rosen Imports in Conshohocken, Pa.
The goal of Audi's growth plan is customer retention. 'We've been very good at conquesting customers,' said Len Hunt, Audi of America vice president. 'Now, we have to keep them.'
Parts and service is a key component of Audi's customer retention plan. Hunt said Audi is studying ways to get parts to dealerships faster.
Hunt urged dealers to hire more technicians and more salespeople. He said dealership personnel will be trained to represent Audi's new culture, which he describes as sophisticated, knowledgeable and confident.
To avoid a disconnect between the brand image Audi is building and its dealerships, Audi offered financial enticements to get dealers to redecorate their dealerships in the 'World of Audi' theme 12 months ago. Approximately 100 of Audi's 260 dealers took advantage of the program.
'Our dealers sold an average of 184 cars last year,' Hunt said. He wants to push that up to 250 to 300 cars annually. Hunt said he expects Audi sales to hit 64,000 cars this year; 1998 sales were 47,517.