Life is good at Audi. So good, Audi dealers now are dealing with the pitfalls that often accompany rapid sales growth: shortages of product, parts and staff.
That was the state of the company that emerged from Audi's franchise meeting during the NADA convention.
Jim Ellis, chairman of the Audi dealer council, said Audi Vice President Len Hunt told dealers that U.S. sales shot up 40 percent in 1999 over 1998 to about 65,000 vehicles. That's up from anemic 1994 U.S. sales of 12,000 units. The goal for 2000 is 75,000 vehicles.
Ellis said Audi and its dealers are riding the wave of hot products, such as the TT Roadster. And new products are coming: long wheelbase and performance versions of the A8; and the All-Road, a fusion station wagon/sport-utility now in production.
Audi's roaring sales have turned the TT Coupe and the S4 and the A4 models into hard-to-get products, Ellis said. Additionally, dealers have suffered growth-related parts availability problems.
But Audi is helping dealers support continued sales growth through training programs and faster delivery of vehicles.
'They realize that the better job they do, the more profitable dealers will be and the more profitable Audi will be,' Ellis said.
In an interview after the franchise meeting, Hunt said the parts problem was caused by production under-capacity in Germany, which has now been fixed. But he doesn't want to lose any customers who may have been frustrated by long waits for parts. So the company is exploring relationship-building programs to reward them for staying with Audi, Hunt said.
Audi also is continuing its push for dealers to establish stand-alone showrooms to showcase the 'Audi Experience.' Hunt said dealers who retail 500 units annually should be 'making plans' for a new store. But no specific timeline has, or will, be set for dealers to have new facilities in place, Hunt said. It will be a gradual turnover.