The comment, reminiscent of jewellery boss Gerald Ratner’s infamous gaff, where he referred to one of his company’s products as “crap”, is unlikely to please the dealer network at a time when the brand is enjoying buoyant sales in the UK.
Pischetsrieder, who was levelling his criticism at rival German brands BMW and Mercedes-Benz, but by implication included Audi, says: “You can get the same transportation performance fuelled with the same speed from a much cheaper car.”
Volkswagen Group has made no secret of its platform, engine and component sharing policy across its four main brands, VW, Audi, Seat and Skoda. The association has seen Seat and Skoda raise UK sales dramatically in recent years, but VW has struggled. The group subsequently recognized the need to give each brand a distinct focus, which led to Seat becoming the sporty option and Skoda the value alternative.
Tony Bramall, director of Bramall and Jones, feels Pischetsrieder’s quote was likely to have been taken out of context, but says: “It’s a disappointing comment, but obviously the quality of the Audi brand commands a price premium. It may indeed be possible to buy cheaper product of similar performance, but the quality won’t be there.”
This is not the first time Pischetsrieder has made contentious comments. While at BMW, he overshadowed the 1999 launch of the Rover 75 by expressing his concerns over the long-term prospects of the Longbridge plant.