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Faster localization vital to realize Audi's ambitions

By LI FUSHENG China Daily Updated: 2023-07-10
Hildegard Wortmann, member of Audi's board of management for sales and marketing. [Photo provided to]

Audi has great potential in China and the key to its success in the world's largest auto market is faster localization, said a senior executive.

"China is so important to us and very close to my heart. I think we have great potential here for the brand," said Hildegard Wortmann, member of Audi's board of management for sales and marketing.

Wortmann made the remarks last week in Beijing during her first face-to-face interview with Chinese reporters since the outbreak of COVID-19.

"We have a very specific strategy for China. If I need to sum it up, it is 'in China for China'. Of course, (we are putting) much more resources into local research and development, much more resources into local market understanding," she said.

"We must do it. This is the only way to be successful in China … the only thing I may like to change a little bit is the speed because we need to do it even more quickly," said Wortmann.

Probably one reason for her wish to speed up localization was because of her travel to Shanghai in the beginning of the year, which was her first trip to China in three years.

Wortmann explained that she made around five trips to China a year before the pandemic. When she finally made it back to the country, she was deeply impressed by how the market has changed and the speed of the change.

There are now new energy vehicle models in China from around 100 brands, which have made the country one of the fiercest markets but also a driving force of progress for automotive technology.

Audi has been pushing its transformation toward electrification. Construction of its joint venture dedicated to NEVs with FAW is underway.

The first model, based on the PPE platform co-developed by Audi and Porsche, is expected to roll off the assembly line soon after construction finishes in late 2024.

Juergen Unser, president of Audi China, said the joint venture based in Changchun, Jilin province, will become a "new chapter" for the carmaker's development in the country.

Another joint venture with SAIC Motor is scheduled to roll out new intelligent and connected vehicles from around 2025, he said.

Besides local production, breakthroughs in user interface, infotainment and battery performance are expected to be made in 2025 and 2026, said Unser.

Audi's electric models have started to gain popularity in the Chinese market. Sales in the first five months of 2023 grew 5 percent year-on-year, which was primarily the result of the rise in its NEV deliveries.

Katy Tsang, executive vice-president of sales and marketing at Audi China, said sales of its electric models, including the Q4 e-tron and the Q5 e-tron, were almost five times the figure from January to May 2022.

Deliveries of NEVs, including plug-in hybrids, soared 288 percent year-on-year in the first five months of 2023.

Tsang, who joined Audi earlier this year, said the carmaker is beefing up efforts to create premium experiences and ecosystems for its customers besides its vehicles.

Audi started to build a fast-charging network in late 2022 in China. Now there are 170 fast-charging piles in 25 cities across the country, which are expected to grow in the second half of the year, said Tsang.