Weissland asked dealers during the make meeting at the NADA Show for patience to deal with a changing luxury market now being dominated by Tesla. He said dealers had opportunities to compete and win with Audi's products, while the factory could help profitability concerns by rethinking some past requirements.
"Let's grow in the healthy channels and reduce the unhealthy channels, because it's unhealthy for us, it's unhealthy for them, so let's reduce it. We need [loaner fleets] to a certain extent, but obviously, don't grow those things, those channels. Reduce them and grow retail," he said. "The product portfolio is there; it's a great opportunity."
One major issue for Audi dealers is the performance of the e-tron, the luxury brand's first battery electric vehicle, which went on sale in the U.S. in 2019. One dealer, who spoke on condition of anonymity after the meeting, said Weissland and other brand leaders were "pushing" e-tron over and over, and dismissing dealer objections about inadequate range and charging infrastructure in the U.S. hampering sales.
Weissland said the factory is working to boost the e-tron's image with customers.
"Whenever we talk about e-tron, there's always three aspects: one is awareness, and you know, that [product] awareness is not there yet. We talked about experience, and experience starts with us. We need to drive those cars to convince potential customers ... to send the first signals. And the third one is, we have to be competitive in range, and we are there. We have programs in place for the e-tron, and we see some momentum," Weissland said. "You can't change it overnight; you have to be patient sometimes. And sometimes, that's my challenge with the headquarters."