Audi officials told dealers at the make meeting that its stores in Florida are testing a Web-based vehicle-ordering system. They also said the number of exclusive Audi dealerships in North America will increase from 33 today to 57 by year end.
Len Hunt, vice president of Audi of America Inc., told dealers the Florida pilot has just been launched. After testing, the system will be rolled out to all Audi dealers, enabling them to order their vehicles on the Internet rather than through a regional Audi executive.
Hunt told dealers to expect additional Internet initiatives.
'Research shows us that 81 percent of Audi customers use the Internet in some capacity before they purchase their vehicle,' Hunt said.
Audi of America is aiming for at least 100 exclusive dealerships by 2004, Hunt said. Audi dealers in North America sell an average of 320 new cars per year per outlet. Hunt said he wants to push that average to more than 400 annually.
Rather than add dealers - Audi has 258 U.S. dealers and 36 in Canada - Audi wants to improve sales of existing dealers, Hunt said. Increasing the number of exclusive dealerships will help achieve that strategy, he said.
Audi dealers like the idea of exclusive stores, said Don Skuta, chairman of the Audi National Dealer Council.
'Exclusivity helps Audi as a whole, and it helps the dealerships,' he said.
Audi of America is focused on what it calls the top 100 dealers that are capable of having an exclusive facility, Hunt said.
'If you look at the statistics, Audi has the smallest number of the exclusive franchises amongst the competition,' Hunt said.
Audi of America also is developing programs to deal with the influx of used Audis expected to come off lease in the next few years.
'Used cars will be an issue,' said Skuta, who is vice president of Champion Motors, an Audi-Porsche dealership in Pompano Beach, Fla. 'Audi is addressing different ways to enhance used-car programs. You have to be as aggressive as other manufacturers. But we have a little bit of time to deal with that issue.'