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‘Saudi market accounts for 13% of Audi’s Mideast sales’

Executive office on wheels.
The new Audi A8.
Enrico Atanasio poses with the Q7.
The Saudi market accounts for 13 percent of regional Audi sales, and premium Audi models such as the Q7 and the A8 are best sellers in the market, according to Enrico Atanasio, regional Audi director. In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Atanasio disclosed that the regional markets have been challenging this year but new models by the company had a positive impact on the business. He is hopeful that the new A8, recently revealed and due in the markets by the end of this year, would lead sales upwards in 2018.

These are highlights of the interview:
How has Audi performed in the regional GCC markets in 2017 and how is the Saudi market doing this year for Audi?
The market has been challenging this year due to the economic situation and political instability in some markets, but Audi has continued to introduce new models such as the Q2 at the beginning of the year, the A5 and S5, the TT RS and the RS 3 Sedan. In quarter three of 2017, the all-new Audi Q5 will arrive so this will have a great positive impact on our business. In terms of sales, while we are not at the levels of last year overall, models such as the A4 have seen a 15 percent increase in popularity with the new model introduction and the Audi R8, which was nominated as the Middle East Car of the Year this year, has enjoyed a 50 percent increase in sales. Saudi Arabia accounts for 13 percent of our regional sales in the Middle East, but here the A4 showed a 23 percent increase in sales due to the popularity of the sedan in the Kingdom.

Audi has revealed the e-tron series in the past few months; do you see prospects of such electric models coming to the region?
Yes, the e-tron had been a very successful range in Europe where the appetite for alternative fuel is high and where the markets are advanced in the provision of facilities to charge and service these vehicles. We see good opportunities for these models in the Middle East in the future but only when the infrastructure is advanced enough to cope with the charging requirements of such models and our dealers are equipped to handle their maintenance. Our Audi Q7 is the best-selling model here accounting for 30 percent of our sales and is followed by the luxury model A8. We are very excited to see this recently announced new model in our market next year.

What new Audi products are likely to be launched in the region in the next 12 months?
The TT RS and the RS 3 Sedan models are just arriving with our dealers now and the all-new Audi Q5 will be an exciting edition to the Audi family from September this year. We are also looking forward to the arrival of the R8 Spyder and the RS 5 at the end of the year.

Do you see a need for regional authorities to start building the necessary infrastructure for alternative energy vehicles?
We are working closely with the authorities to explore new charging opportunities for electric cars and there is also good progress on the adoption of legislation for autonomous vehicles in the future in the UAE. The challenges of an extremely hot climate mean that we have to make sure these cars are fully tested and approved to perform to the standards expected by our customers. As soon as we are certain that all of these requirements are met, we will introduce these models into the market, but we cannot put a date on that at the moment.

What are your best-selling models in the region and do you see this pattern changing in the foreseeable future?
The Q7, Q5 and Q3 make up the majority of our sales with 39 percent, followed by the A8. Our customer demands a premium car that offers sophistication, sportiness and progressive technology. The Middle East is one of the biggest markets in the world for sales of the Audi R8.

What new technologies will be included in the new Audi A8?
The new A8 is an important driver of innovation and heralds a new design era with exterior and interior styling for Audi. The new A8 has also been developed for highly automated driving (level three). In 2018, we will begin gradual volume production of the piloted driving functions.
In addition, the new A8 will feature many other innovations such as a 48-volt main vehicle electrical system, Audi AI active suspension and Audi wireless charging, to name a few. The new Audi A8 also features 41 assistance systems, which surpasses all previous totals in our product line.

Do you see a future for self-driven Audi cars in the Gulf region?
Yes, the autonomous car gives the customer what we call the “25th Hour.” It will allow people to live their lives in a new way and give them more time to work and relax. The A8 is the first car to offer level-three capabilities in the field of autonomous driving and we are encouraged to see that there is good progress in the discussions to approve legislation that allows autonomous cars to be accepted on the roads in the UAE.
With its “25th Hour” project, Audi is enabling its customers to be fully in control of how they use their time in cars. Personal preferences are the focal point of the project. The car interior adapts itself to users’ needs and desires, allowing them to enjoy optimal relaxation, spend time with family and friends without being disturbed.
The Saudi market accounts for 13 percent of regional Audi sales, and premium Audi models such as the Q7 and the A8 are best sellers in the market, according to Enrico Atanasio, regional Audi director. In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Atanasio disclosed that the regional markets have been challenging this year but new models by the company had a positive impact on the business. He is hopeful that the new A8, recently revealed and due in the markets by the end of this year, would lead sales upwards in 2018.

These are highlights of the interview:
How has Audi performed in the regional GCC markets in 2017 and how is the Saudi market doing this year for Audi?
The market has been challenging this year due to the economic situation and political instability in some markets, but Audi has continued to introduce new models such as the Q2 at the beginning of the year, the A5 and S5, the TT RS and the RS 3 Sedan. In quarter three of 2017, the all-new Audi Q5 will arrive so this will have a great positive impact on our business. In terms of sales, while we are not at the levels of last year overall, models such as the A4 have seen a 15 percent increase in popularity with the new model introduction and the Audi R8, which was nominated as the Middle East Car of the Year this year, has enjoyed a 50 percent increase in sales. Saudi Arabia accounts for 13 percent of our regional sales in the Middle East, but here the A4 showed a 23 percent increase in sales due to the popularity of the sedan in the Kingdom.

Audi has revealed the e-tron series in the past few months; do you see prospects of such electric models coming to the region?
Yes, the e-tron had been a very successful range in Europe where the appetite for alternative fuel is high and where the markets are advanced in the provision of facilities to charge and service these vehicles. We see good opportunities for these models in the Middle East in the future but only when the infrastructure is advanced enough to cope with the charging requirements of such models and our dealers are equipped to handle their maintenance. Our Audi Q7 is the best-selling model here accounting for 30 percent of our sales and is followed by the luxury model A8. We are very excited to see this recently announced new model in our market next year.

What new Audi products are likely to be launched in the region in the next 12 months?
The TT RS and the RS 3 Sedan models are just arriving with our dealers now and the all-new Audi Q5 will be an exciting edition to the Audi family from September this year. We are also looking forward to the arrival of the R8 Spyder and the RS 5 at the end of the year.

Do you see a need for regional authorities to start building the necessary infrastructure for alternative energy vehicles?
We are working closely with the authorities to explore new charging opportunities for electric cars and there is also good progress on the adoption of legislation for autonomous vehicles in the future in the UAE. The challenges of an extremely hot climate mean that we have to make sure these cars are fully tested and approved to perform to the standards expected by our customers. As soon as we are certain that all of these requirements are met, we will introduce these models into the market, but we cannot put a date on that at the moment.

What are your best-selling models in the region and do you see this pattern changing in the foreseeable future?
The Q7, Q5 and Q3 make up the majority of our sales with 39 percent, followed by the A8. Our customer demands a premium car that offers sophistication, sportiness and progressive technology. The Middle East is one of the biggest markets in the world for sales of the Audi R8.

What new technologies will be included in the new Audi A8?
The new A8 is an important driver of innovation and heralds a new design era with exterior and interior styling for Audi. The new A8 has also been developed for highly automated driving (level three). In 2018, we will begin gradual volume production of the piloted driving functions.
In addition, the new A8 will feature many other innovations such as a 48-volt main vehicle electrical system, Audi AI active suspension and Audi wireless charging, to name a few. The new Audi A8 also features 41 assistance systems, which surpasses all previous totals in our product line.

Do you see a future for self-driven Audi cars in the Gulf region?
Yes, the autonomous car gives the customer what we call the “25th Hour.” It will allow people to live their lives in a new way and give them more time to work and relax. The A8 is the first car to offer level-three capabilities in the field of autonomous driving and we are encouraged to see that there is good progress in the discussions to approve legislation that allows autonomous cars to be accepted on the roads in the UAE.
With its “25th Hour” project, Audi is enabling its customers to be fully in control of how they use their time in cars. Personal preferences are the focal point of the project. The car interior adapts itself to users’ needs and desires, allowing them to enjoy optimal relaxation, spend time with family and friends without being disturbed.

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