Audi posted a 14-percent surge in sales in China in the first quarter of the 2013 to 102,810 units, despite a drastic drop in its fleet sales. The decline in fleet sales is attributable to last year’s directive to Chinese government officials to purchase local limousine instead of luxury sedans from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
According to Audi sales chief Luca de Meo, the move resulted to fleet sales now only accounting for less than 10 percent, instead of the 20 percent years ago. He joked during the Shanghai auto show that Audi was “honored to be the official supplier” of government limos, referring to the preference of Chinese officials for the black long-wheelbase Audi A6.
He added that “if there would be any opportunity, we could continue to serve the government here." The loss of business to local carmakers, however, failed to deter Audi’s growth in China, as the German company managed to maintain its sales lead against rivals BMW and Mercedes. BMW posted an 8-percent gain in China to 86,224 units while Mercedes logged a 12-percent decline in the country to 45,440 units in the first quarter of 2013.
Audi is boosting its gains in China by lining up a range of less expensive compact crossovers and sedans, like A3 sedan unveiled in April in Shanghai, to entice retail customers. Audi’s sales chief noted that while the long-wheelbase A6 is a mainstay for China's corporate fleets, many of it are driven by chauffeurs.
On the other hand, the A3, Q3 and Q5, are driven by normal consumers, de Meo remarked. Carmakers are paying more attention to driving performance, cockpit design and front-seat amenities to attract retail luxury consumers who usually drive their own vehicles. Kevin Chen, general director of Shanghai General Motors' Cadillac division, remarked that in the past, around 70 percent of the luxury car owners sat in the back, and the situation is now reversed.