HONG KONG/BEIJING -- Beijing residents may soon be able to rent Audi cars by the hour with the tap of a smartphone as the automaker rolls out the service in Hong Kong and now considers introducing it to cities on the China mainland.
China's capital city operates a lottery to distribute a limited number of license plates to control the vehicle population, and the odds of winning one can be slimmer than playing roulette. The use of passenger vehicles is further restricted to select license-plate numbers on certain days of the week, making car ownership even more onerous.
These conditions make Beijing suited to a service like Audi at Home, which allows users to rent an Audi by the hour through a smartphone app, Audi sales chief Dietmar Voggenreiter says.
The luxury unit of Volkswagen Group introduced the program in Hong Kong on Wednesday, following debuts in San Francisco and Miami.
"For the ban day, you can use the Audi at Home service," Voggenreiter said in an interview Wednesday in Hong Kong. "It would fit perfect to Beijing."
In Hong Kong, Audi teamed up with developer Kerry Properties Ltd. to offer the service to residents at the luxury Dragons Range complex, where 90 users signed up to rent at the rate of HK$200 ($26) per hour. Customers can choose from a range of models that include the A3 Sportback e-tron plug-in hybrid and the Q7 SUV, Audi said in a statement today.
There are plans to expand the offering to more sites, the automaker said.
The service may appeal to the city's jet-setters who "aren't really living 30 days a month in the city but they have to pay 30 days for their car if they own the car," Voggenreiter said.
Audi growth in China
On the outlook for China, Voggenreiter said Audi expects sales in its largest market to expand five to 10 percent this year, compared with a 1.4 percent decline in 2015. The automaker is aiming for "healthy profitable growth" and wants to ensure its dealers are at a certain profit level, so it's not pushing sales with steep discounts, the executive said.
Dealers are making an average profit of 66 yuan ($10) for selling a premium car in China, compared with 487 yuan in June, after increasing discounts to compete for sales, according to data compiled by WAYS Consulting Co.
Audi sales in China including Hong Kong rose 6.5 percent in the first seven months to 335,580 units, slower than the 11 percent industywide gain in passenger-vehicle deliveries.
Automotive News Europe contributed to this report