The introduction of new models by the premium brand has seen new car registrations in Britain more than double in the past decade, but the network has had to work hard to keep pace and to cope with the increase in the Audi parc.
At the beginning of the year, the company quietly launched the Audi Mobile Technician programme which, said Hicks, will allow vehicle faults to be diagnosed at a customer’s home at their request, before the car is booked into a dealer, saving valuable time.
“We have one per market area, so that means we have 40,” said Hicks.
Audi provides an A4 Avant and the dealer provides a technician, whose cost may vary from £20,000 to £40,000, depending on the location, says Hicks.
“We don’t plan that these people will be productive,” he added. “They’re out there to reveal, or sort out, mainly diagnostic problems in advance.”
Drive-in reception for service customers is an idea already widely in use in the US, said Hicks: instead of having to hunt for a parking space and queue up with other Audi customers in reception, the owner uses a dedicated lane to arrive at a special service-only station, where he/she checks in and then drives away in a waiting courtesy car.
“When you park in the special bay, we also carry out a quick assessment of the vehicle to see if there are any other faults and the owner is asked whether they want these rectified at the same time,” added Hicks.
“We’ve got four of these under construction at the moment, at Bradford, Wakefield, Milton Keynes and Leicester.
“I know the scheme will work and we will be rolling it out next year as part of all new-builds.” He says Audi has a positive, open mind about satellite service centres.
“Our strategy is that if you (a dealer) think there is a market that we’re not exploiting and you would like to build or buy an aftersales facility with possibly a used-car feature, then we will look it.
“And if you’re prepared to fund half the cost then, as a goodwill gesture, we’ll put up the other half. We’ve got to offer, from a service point of view, a lot more tailor-made stuff’.
“There are certain customers who say, ‘if you can offer me a better rate (for servicing) I’m not fussed if the car isn’t cleaned or valeted, or a courtesy car is provided, I’m quite happy to sit here while the car is serviced’.
“So, again, this is something else we’re looking at. For example, when you go to fast-fits, they don’t wash your car, they don’t collect and deliver and, in some of them, you’re lucky to get a waiting room.”