Features Interviews

Interview: Jeremy Hicks

Time 7:29 am, August 18, 2011

Jeremy HicksJAMES BATCHELOR grabs the chance to speak to Audi’s UK boss about the RS brand and its dealer network

How important is RS?

It’s very important. Originally we only ever had one model at a time and the RS name began with the RS2. That was seen very much as a bespoke, one-off, almost a little bit of a custom-built car. I’d been with the brand for six years when we launched the RS4, and that was very similar to the RS2 in that it was a bit of a one-off and there was only one RS model at a time.

Now, though, RS is very much part of our range – so right now we have TT-RS, RS3, RS5 and the RS6 coming to the end of its production life.

screen-shot-2011-08-16-at-112027So, is RS becoming a brand in itself?

Well, it always was. We get very careful about not creating other brands for ourselves – what we do is have certain derivatives. For example, quattro is very big for us, and people tend to ask whether quattro is a brand.

No, it’s not – it is absolutely a part of our brand. We have a master brand at the top and there’s elements of the brand which we will seek to benefit from as much as we can, and also to push and communicate.

RS goes towards making up the whole, and it is very much a part of Vorsprung durch Technik because it hits on our sporting credentials which are really important to us.

Is RS profitable for your dealers?

The things I focus on in my role are building the brand, delivering product, delivering the best experience to customers, and concentrating on the dealer network – and the network faces two ways.

Firstly, it is about delivering a network which is good for customers, but also it has to be profitable. I absolutely believe that one of the key tenets of any success in automotive franchising is having a really hooked-up relationship between the manufacturer and the network. And the biggest demonstration of that is delivering a profitable network.

So, is it about RS models being particularly profitable for our dealers? No – it’s about delivering a profitable model for our dealers. I’m not here for this ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ stuff – we’re here for the long term.

‘Our strategy has been about up-scaling the network over the last 10 years’


How many dealers have you got and can we expect any more?

We have 119, but you cannot expect any more this year! Our strategy has been very much about up-scaling the network over the last 10 years by increasing the size of showrooms. If you go back to 1993, the Audi presence was very much characterised by an Audi on a brown carpet tucked away in the corner of a VW dealer.

If you look now, West London has the capability of showcasing well over 100 cars indoors, and most of our dealers have the space to display 17 cars. We feel we are running at the right level at the moment.

What’s the situation with lead times?

Everyone in the industry has been experiencing an extension to lead times due to the unfortunate situation in Japan, but we saw this extension begin about this time last year. That was because the market for us came back a lot more strongly and a lot more immediately than we ever expected it to, and that did catch us by surprise.

We’ve responded quickly, and we’re now not in a bad situation from my point of view. But we very much took the policy to get what we could built, and the situation centred very much around problems concerning specific specifications, not volumes.

Have we reached a peak for the number of models?

It was always part of the plan to grow significantly our model range. We have progressively added more models to new sectors and filled in the blanks – and the big blanks are now being filled, such as the Q3 and the SUV market, and the SUV sector is one in which we perform very well.

James Batchelor's avatar

James – or Batch as he’s known – started at Car Dealer in 2010, first as the work experience boy, eventually becoming editor in 2013. He worked for Auto Express as editor-at-large and was the face of Carbuyer’s YouTube reviews. In 2020, he went freelance and now writes for a number of national titles and contributes regularly to Car Dealer. In October 2021 he became Car Dealer's associate editor.

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