Len Hunt knew he had a whale of a sales job ahead of him. He wasn't worried about selling Audis. He wanted to sell himself to Audi dealers in the United States.
Hunt, 44, was director of Audi UK for nearly five years before replacing Gerd Klauss on Jan. 4, 1999, as vice president in charge of Audi of America. Hunt brought with him a new marketing director, Walter Hanek, from Audi AG, the parent company in Germany.
Hunt said he felt the skepticism from dealers. They were saying, 'He's a German; he's a Brit; what the hell is going on?' Hunt recalled.
So Hunt and Hanek embarked on a tour of the United States and Canada, Hunt said. They met with dealer sales managers and brand specialists from Jan. 15 to Feb. 5 last year. They then met the dealers themselves at a meeting in Hawaii.
'We went all over America,' Hunt said. 'I've been to more places in America than most Americans have been. I'll tell you, it did us a lot of good.'
During that tour, Hunt learned that making changes was OK, just not all at once. 'We set off with our big new ideas, big changes, and our dealer council said, `Slow down a bit,' so we did,' Hunt said.
Jerry Miller, former chairman of the Audi National Dealer Council, said he told Hunt even before he started his new job that he must get close to the dealers.
'I believe (the tour) was effective, and he's been pretty visible since then,' Miller said. 'Gerd Klauss is a real tough act for anyone to follow.'