Interview with Enrico Atanasio, head of Audi Middle East

You were recently appointed here in the region. Give us a quick overview of the overall performance of Audi in the Middle East.
2015 has been a tough year because it started in one way and ended in another way. So, clearly, the economy and the general social environment is very tough. So, in the second half of the year we were suffering, but everybody was suffering, so 2015 will continue to be important to growth - but not with the two digit growth we were used to in previous years. It's a reflection of this general situation. In this difficult market, we areĀ  injecting new products because we want the customers to see that we are looking to the future - because sooner or later the market will come back. Therefore, we have to create an infrastructure so that we can respond when the demand comes up again. Opening a new workshop or a showroom is the right thing to do so that the customer has trust in the brand. We are creating some new features for the customer, like the configurator for better service, and we tend to create that exclusiveness versus the others. At the moment we are making our brand grow.

What are your top three markets in the Middle East in terms of sales?
The best performance is Dubai market, followed by Abu Dhabi, and then we have other important markets. We have a lot of investments to contribute to the development of the brand. The third market is Kuwait - they are investing in creating new facilities. KSA follows UAE.

Do you still have a segment that is not filled yet for Audi?
We believe that we are offering a wide choice for our customers and we can have any customer's demand in our range. There are areas that we choose not to have a product like the competition, because it's a matter of how to position your brand. We have a very important brand; we are very good in the SUV segment, saloon segment, sporty segment and the compact, hot-hatch cars, which are always the customer's choice.

Audi is dealing with diverse kinds of products across the Middle East and the GCC region. Are your dealers facing any customer complaints/praises?
There is a constant aim for customer satisfaction which goes across every activity for the dealer, like opening a big workshop will improve customer satisfaction, customers will have easier choices and booking times, and encouraging the dealer to implement activities for customer satisfaction. There is a measurement that we do every month, where we enter with the dealer into a meticulous analysis of each single point of customer satisfaction or dissatisfaction. There are some complaints sometimes related to the service or the product expectations, but overall we are on the positive side. The dealer is working on customer satisfaction on a continuous basis.

Did the diesel scandal that occurred recently affect the Audi brand?
Honestly speaking, in this region we don't have that program at all. But, we keep monitoring these things every day, and so far there is not any impact on the market.

What are your general plans in 2016 in terms of products or anything else?
We will be focusing on motorsport and the driving experience. So, the customer can explore our cars to the maximum in a controlled and safe environment. We are going to also encourage people to test the new A4. For instance, with the Q7, you have to test drive this SUV to be able to tell the difference between the old and the new. The A4 has gadgets and features that are in a higher segment, (maybe two segments higher) and people will be persuaded by the car once they test drive it.



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