Fleet News

Audi A6

Audi

Review

Those are brave sentiments but, according to Adrian Short, head of corporate sales for Audi UK, the new A6 is such a leap forward from the old car that Audi will no longer be seen by corporate customers as less luxurious than BMW or Mercedes-Benz.

Speaking at the launch of the car to key figures from the fleet and leasing industry and future value guides, Short said: 'There are two ways to achieve your goals. One way is to evolve the business and to develop new products and one is to be revolutionary in terms of your approach. I would like to think we are revolutionising the Audi product range and any comparisons with the old car are not really possible – they're chalk and cheese.

'Not only are we talking about a great car here, but also about brand image building that's moving us not just into that competitive arena in the premium market but beyond it. We're setting new standards in terms of premium image.'

The previous A6 had seen its residual values slide over the past couple of years, while cars such as the BMW 5-series held strong on secondhand prices right up until it was replaced by the new model, indicating an inherent strength in the brand and the product that Audi wasn't achieving.

Short does not believe the new car will suffer the same problem and thinks the industry will need to re-evaluate Audi's position in the executive segment as a result.

He said: 'I think the car is stunning and we have a really serious premium segment competitor. We want the industry to take the car on its merits. Some things, such as build quality, have been taken over from the old car but in terms of dynamics, engines and suspension set-up there is a revolutionary change.

'I'd like to see that message getting across, particularly when people are looking at the car in terms of future values and how the general market will see it.'

According to early estimates from the residual value cohorts on the trip, Audi can expect predicted values that match the BMW 5-series – surely a good sign.

The A6 certainly looks stunning. Parked next to an E-class, the Mercedes-Benz's traditional conservative looks do tend to shrivel in the face of Audi's radical, modernist onslaught.

It is also then that you realise just how large the A6 is – the E-class looks small in comparison, which is no mean feat. The interior is absolutely top-class, and better than a 5-series. This is a very high-quality premium product.

With such an impressive new product, Audi is gearing up for a big push in the corporate sector and it has addressed a number of issues it believes will make the car even more inviting for fleets.

To this end, Audi invited a number of leasing and fleet customers to Ingolstadt in Germany at the start of the year to discuss their needs, specifications and mix.

Mark Gillett, product manager, Audi UK, said: 'The A6 moves Audi as a brand forward. One of the elements in the past we have not done as much as possibly we could have is listened to the corporate market with regard to what they require and what they want from the vehicle and then putting that into place in terms of the offer. We have this time.

'Considering the requirements of the corporate market, there will be a communications pack that will be a corporate offer only through Corporate Sales or Audi Corporate Online that will combine items such as the multi-function wheel and telephone, and it will come at an advantageous price.

'It hasn't been possible to put on all the elements suggested by the leasing industry as standard. We have a tactical position against our key German competitors that we must maintain.

'That is factory-fixed and there is not a lot of leeway in the UK, particularly on a brand new model. We have to apply that rule across the board. For example, the leather on current cars is a run-out offer and it is not possible to put it on all the new cars from day one.

We find customers are willing to pay for it, and it adds to residual value and to the attractiveness of the vehicle, although it is only standard on the 4.2.'

One of the areas that Audi has looked at with the A6 is the much-heralded MMI information and control system. From early discussions with the industry it was obvious that the European entry-level specification would be deeply unpopular in the British corporate market.

Gillett said: 'The MMI at the Basic level we didn't feel was good enough because it only had four speakers and only in the front doors, so what we're going to do is upgrade every one in the UK to a system that is caused MMI Basic Plus and has 10 speakers. That may have a very small impact on retail price, but it is something we are working on for the range.'

It's not all change for the specific UK market requirements. The Sport model of other Audi models and the previous A6 has been deleted and replaced with the European standard model – S Line.

Gillett continued: ' There will be a new specification for the A6, with S Line taking over from Sport models in the UK. Sport was a specification that was built for the UK market, and as such, proved to be an awkward. In the past the Sport model in the UK has been created from options and we've bundled them together and created a new model.

From the new A6 we are going to be using the S Line – a brand in its own right and has marketing material in its own right and gives us the opportunity to offer an exterior styling pack which differentiates the car from a SE, which is not something we have had in the past.'

The S Line will cost £2,250 over the SE for the extra interior equipment, while the extra spoiler and bodywork changes will costs £1,000 more.

The V6 engine will be the early runner in terms of share, although in the long run the 2.0 TDI will be the volume model, but it does not go on sale until September.

As a result, in 2004 V6-engines will take the largest share of sales at 37%, with four cylinder TDI models not far behind on 32%, despite only having a three-month sales window. Orders are already being taken.

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