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Audi says digital customer brand experience will be differentiator

Audi is aiming for its future electric cars to be ‘experience devices’ as it aims to “rethink the automobile” as it builds in more digital functionality.

Audi is aiming for its future electric cars to be ‘experience devices’ as it aims to “rethink the automobile” as it builds in more digital functionality.

The new strategy was the central message at the recent Munich IAA Mobility 2021 show as part of a series of presentations that would’ve been an instant turn-off to cynics, but within them some significant objectives were revealed.

These included Audi’s focus on “aggressively developing new business models and sales potential” that not only includes auto retailers, but also in-car purchases and all-new types of mobility services. Lots of car firms are discussing the latter but Audi is now stating it will be an integral part of its next-generation infotainment systems.

Audi believes it has “comprehensively repositioned itself” to focus on software and IT – and this repositioning takes in all brand touchpoints, both online and offline, including digital sales structures and ecommerce platforms. To this end, Audi relaunched its main customer website earlier this year, to serve as the entry point to all its digital offerings. “Digitisation of the entire customer journey will be the most important competitive differentiator,” says Audi.

The firm is encouraging customers to use its new interactive car configurator, which it says allows them to save their chosen configuration online using a code, or downloading it as a brochure, or either switching instantly to an online consultation or scheduling a test drive at a local retailer. The entire Audi brand experience should be “seamless, emotional and intuitive”.

Notably, Audi says it will “further develop its digital sales along with its retail trade” in the coming months and years. The goal is a central e-commerce platform including all Audi services, from new and used vehicle purchasing to maintenance packages, leasing and financing. “This is how Audi is bringing the strengths of online sales together with stationary dealerships.”

Audi is also pushing its myAudi app, technology that is still in its infancy. The firm is betting on fundamental improvements from an imminent relaunch, which will bring a new design and additional vehicle-related functions. Owners will even be able to purchase vehicle options after purchase, such as turning on heated seats: this is likely to be either a one-off purchase or a monthly subscription (after a free one-month trial), via a new AudiPay global billing and payment platform. It’s a similar system to that already offered, somewhat controversially, by Tesla.

Partly due to the unpopularity of Volkswagen’s latest sub-par infotainment system, as seen in the latest Golf, ID.3 and other Group vehicles, the company has set up a new standalone software division called CARIAD. This has been charged with developing an all-new operating system for the firm’s brands, which will facilitate such future business models (as well as, hopefully, being less befuddling to use).

It’s all bold stuff. And Audi has form with ambitious new brand ventures – remember its now-shuttered London ‘brand experience centre’? But the firm is confident digitalisation will deliver, with CEO Markus Duesmann explaining ahead of the Munich show how it aims to double sales to three million vehicles a year by 2030 – and achieve an 11% return on sales. The so-called Vorsprung 2030 strategy will be deliverable “in light of the market forecasts and our attractive product portfolio”.