Automotive News EuropeSANTA BARBARA, Calif. - In an apparent sign of confidence, about half of Audi's US dealers say they are ready to give their stores a separate identity.
Audi of America Inc. has been encouraging its dealers to make Audi stand alone from other brands they carry. So far, 136 dealers have committed in writing to doing that within the next year and a half, said Gerd Klauss, Audi of America chairman.
Not all of the 136 will set up single-line sales and service outlets for Audi.
Some will open separate showrooms or promote 'separateness' in other ways.
At the beginning of this year, only five of the 269 Audi dealers operated single-line Audi sales and service facilities.
'We're not putting a gun to their head,' Klauss said. 'But we are trying to convince our dealers that brand separation does make sense. We tell them, 1/8You will make money on the investment.' It's really been a soft sell.'
The driving force is a revamped Audi lineup of luxury sedans and wagons, Klauss said in an interview during a press preview of Audi's 1998 products here.
The redesigned A6 sedan went on sale last week in the USA.
'It's a sign of their confidence of the future and our future growth,' Klauss said.
Klauss said Audi is offering dealers some financial help. The amount is tied to the degree of separation.
Some dealers will go to a completely separate showroom, parts and service facility. Others plan only to maintain a separate showroom.
Audi sold 26,876 cars in the USA through October, an increase of 22.7 percent over last year. Klauss expects full-year sales of 33,000 to 34,000. Audi hasn't enjoyed sales above 30,000 since 1987.
Klauss predicts an annual growth rate of at least 20 percent.