By KINGSLEY WIJAYASINHA
The e-tron is a five-seater SUV with digital equipment and home-charging tools, and is the first of three fully electric models that Audi plans to launch by 2020.
Alexander von Waldenberg-Dresel, regional director for Southeast Asia, said Audi plans to launch an electrified model in Thailand next year. The German automaker – which was hit by the dieselgate scandal in September 2015 and saw its CEO Rupert Stadler getting arrested in June this year for fears of suppressing evidence – plans to electrify as much as 30 per cent of its product line-up by 2025.
Michael Frisch, senior director for Audi AG overseas sales, told reporters at the opening of the Audi Centre in Bangkok that there was a bright future for electrified vehicles in Thailand due to the favourable government policy.
He said Audi has a financially strong local partner (Meister Technik Co Ltd), but the automaker still has much work to do in order to catch up with its all-time rivals BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
“We have to work on brand development, image and awareness in order to build demand,” he said. “Yes, Mercedes-Benz is the leader here, but we are working to introduce more new models in order to lessen the gap.”
While BMW and Mercedes-Benz have local assembly operations that help lower retail prices, Audi still imports all its products.
The executives said Audi’s ultimate goal is to become the No 1 luxury brand in every market it is present in, but it still has many hurdles to cross in Thailand.
“If we were to fight for the No 1 position here, then we would need to start assembling locally,” von Waldenberg-Dresel added.
Audi Centre Bangkok, which serves as the new head office for Audi Thailand and also offers sales and after-sales services, is expected to help boost sales significantly. Last year alone, 610 Audi vehicles were sold in Thailand.
From January to July this year, Audi sales have already surpassed the 600-unit mark, and more growth is expected with new showrooms. Apart from the Audi Centre in Bangkok, Audi opened a dealership in Pattaya last month, and plans to open dealerships in Phuket and Ubon Ratchathani provinces. It is also setting one up in Thon Buri.
“Since March last year, our sales only came from the New Phetchaburi showroom [in Bangkok], but now we will have two more outlets and more will follow next year,” Krisada Lamsam, the CEO of Meister Technik Co Ltd, said. The 12,800-square metre Audi Centre Bangkok, which cost over Bt1 billion to build, is the third-largest Audi complex in the Asia-Pacific region.
“We are confident that our advances this year will raise confidence in the Audi brand and convince customers to choose our brand in their next purchase,” he added.