Interview with Head of Brand and Sales Development, Audi AG

“First, we believe in the power of our brand and we will keep investing in it. Second, it will, of course, be crucial to observe and understand customers’ future needs better than others do.”

The Audi slogan ” Vorsprung durch Technik” has been used in all markets since 1971 and has since become synonymous with the brand. Does this slogan actually describe the brand’s contemporary reality and positioning strategy into the future?

Yes, definitely. “Vorsprung durch Technik” is more than a slogan—it is the core of our brand and describes how we at Audi think, feel, and act. We don’t just want to bring people from one place to another with our cars. We want to deliver advantages to our customers, give them “Vorsprung.” We are continuously striving for better answers to improve our customers’ lives through innovative technologies. Until now, we have achieved this with cutting-edge innovations like the quattro all-wheel drive, lightweight construction and efficient engines as well as the unique Audi design. It appeals to more than 1.4 million customers all over the world every year. And, of course, we will keep “Vorsprung durch Technik” at the heart of our positioning in the future.

Audi has established itself as a progressive brand in the automobile industry. Space for differentiation within the product category itself is becoming increasingly crowded. What does an automobile brand need today in order to achieve differentiation and, therefore, leadership?

What makes Audi special are the cars themselves. At the end of the day, that is what the customer is driving home. We are concentrating on the technologies that carry true advantages over others, and we believe in the power of a compelling design. For us, it is of utmost importance to anticipate clients’ needs and wishes before they even arise. Then, we dedicate a lot of effort to translating them into future products and services. Fortunately, at Audi we work with the best engineers and designers to get there.

Green issues are becoming increasingly important in the automobile sector with trends towards higher consumer demand for sustainable products. How important is an environmentally friendly image for the Audi brand? Does Audi need to increase investment in green branding efforts in order to stay in the race?

According to a study by the Center of Automotive Management, among premium carmakers Audi is the brand that, looking at the entire fleet, emits the lowest CO2 levels. Looking forward, however, we have a long-term strategy when it comes to sustainability. Our goal is to offer holistic, CO2–neutral mobility. At the current stage of battery capacity and performance, we consider plug-in hybrid vehicles to be superior to purely electric cars, as they offer customer benefits in terms of range, sportiness, and unrestricted everyday usability.

Our A3 Sportback e-tron is a premium automobile without any restrictions combining all the qualities of an Audi with high efficiency, offering a range of up to 50 kilometers on electric power. Furthermore, we will launch the A3 Sportback g-tron. This car interprets the principle of sustainable mobility in a new, pioneering way as its engine runs on Audi e-gas, a synthetic methane almost identical to natural gas. It allows CO2-neutral mobility with a conventional combustion engine and is also great for long distance driving.

Along with Audi e-tron and g-tron models, vehicles with the ultra label will constitute a third category in our portfolio of cars offering sustainable, everyday mobility. Recently, we presented the A3 1.6 TDI ultra as the first ultra model and most fuel-efficient production model. Its fuel economy sets standards with an astounding 85 grams of CO2 emissions per kilometer.

But we do not just look at the car’s emissions. At Audi, we place priority on taking a holistic approach. We analyze the environmental impact of our products over their entire lifecycle—from the extraction of raw materials to production, from driving to recycling. We are unwavering in our belief that sustainability and performance are not contradictory concepts.

Audi’s goal is to become the leading premium brand in the automobile sector. What exactly are you doing to reach this goal and what are the crucial steps?

First, we believe in the power of our brand and we will keep investing in it. Second, it will, of course, be crucial to observe and understand customers’ future needs better than others do. We have a clear vision for Audi. You can already see it, for example, with our new retail concept, Audi City. In this “cyber store,” the brand’s entire model line-up can be viewed and experienced digitally in the heart of major international cities. Today, we have Audi City locations in London and Beijing and the third one in Berlin will follow soon. We are further investing in new technologies and extending our product portfolio, in order to provide our customers with the perfect car for their respective living situation. We are also internationalizing our business. In May, we set the cornerstone for our new plant in Mexico. In the next few years, we will invest more than € 900 million just for this new site.

In the end, it’s all about people. As I said in the beginning, we are not just developing products to bring people from one place to another—we want to give them a real “Vorsprung.” Those who understand what this means today and in the future will lead the pack.