Audi dealers were promised Friday that their months of struggling to get sufficient inventory on their lots because of problems in the supply chain were behind them and that 2019 should be a much better sales year.
Mark Del Rosso, the longtime Audi executive who became president of Audi of America on Dec. 1 after a brief stint with Bentley, told dealers at the make meeting that "stabilizing our supply chain" is the top priority across all levels of the premium brand.
"We could have sold many more cars than we did in 2018," Del Rosso told Automotive News after the meeting, adding that any blame for that fell squarely on the brand and not its dealers. "We haven't been a consistent partner, from a supply-side point of view, and we've missed not only market opportunity, but customer opportunity. My No. 1 priority is stabilizing the supply chain so that [Audi dealers] can fulfill customer demand."
Audi dealers had trouble for most of the last half of 2018 getting sufficient inventory because of issues with emissions certification under a new regimen enacted in Europe called the Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicle Test Procedure. Dealers said, for example, they had difficulty keeping A6s in stock. Audi's U.S. sales fell 1.4 percent in 2018 to 223,323 after its 107-month sales streak ended in October.
Audi dealers — who also got a sneak peek of the brand's planned commercial for the Super Bowl involving its new e-tron family of battery-electric vehicles — also heard that the brand will be focused on improving dealer profitability.
"It's good to have Mark back. It's like he never skipped a beat," said David Rosenberg, CEO of Prime Motor Group in Westwood, Mass., and the outgoing chairman of the Audi National Dealer Council. "He did a good job of proactively addressing what our concerns would be at the beginning of the meeting. Dealer profitability is something that is a concern, and Audi is going to be focused on that because they want us to be profitable." e