MONTEREY, Calif. - Len Hunt, vice president in charge of Audi of America Inc., wants to concentrate sales efforts in the Sun Belt.
In the Northeast, where Audi dealers have been overextended and outperforming the market, Hunt looks forward to slower growth. Dealers need a breather - time to better prepare for Audi's sales success, Hunt said.
However, Hunt said he would not take away any allocations from Northeast dealers to feed dealers in the South.
'We don't want our sales success to be short-lived,' said Hunt. 'I want to make sure our infrastructure growth is in line with our sales growth.'
Audi of America expects to sell more than 60,000 cars this year in the United States. That would be at least a 26 percent increase over 1998 sales, and the fifth straight year of double-digit growth. In 1998, sales were up 39 percent from the previous year.
Audi of Am-erica is on track to surpass in 2000 its U.S. sales record of 74,061 set in 1985.
Hunt is concerned that some dealers - especially in the Northeast, where sales have been the strongest - are not adequately prepared to service these vehicles and properly follow up with customers.
Audi dealer service satisfaction scores this year were well above the industry average. Audi had a score of 760 out of 1,000 possible points on J.D. Power and Associates' latest service satisfaction survey. The industry average was 683.
Hunt spoke with Automotive News here Aug. 30 during the introduction of its 2000 lineup.
Hunt wants to concentrate sales efforts in Florida, Texas and California, where customers are seeking Audi cars and wagons with front-wheel drive, rather than the all-wheel-drive quattro.
'We're finding an explosion in the Sun Belt states,' Hunt said. 'We're desperately trying to supply these areas.'
Jerry Miller, chairman of the Audi National Dealer Council, said Audi needs to 'proactively work with us. Let's reorganize, let's regroup. We have decisions to make together on how to handle the growth.' Miller owns an Audi dealership in Conshohock-en, Pa., in suburban Philadel-phia.
Audi lured customers back into the showrooms with redesigned A4 and A6 sedans and wagons and with improvements to its all-wheel-drive quattro system. Now, for the 2000 model year, Audi is focusing on power and performance. (See accompanying story.)