In my 25 years in the Volkswagen Group, and especially since the dawn of the new millennium when I joined Audi, customer demands and needs have intensified. There has been a breath-taking proliferation of models and derivatives filling countless new niches. Audi is close to quadrupling its 2000 sales figure principally because UK buyers are demanding premium on an unprecedented scale.
It takes brands a long time – decades in fact – to develop, and this is especially true in the premium sector. Thirty years is a typical incubation period to plot any significant change. Look at what has been happening to the fortunes of car brands since the 90s and you'll see a distinct polarisation going on – a marked ‘flight to premium’, and the consequential creation of what we call a ‘sinking middle’ – the middle ground populated by the more mainstream makers. It's now all about true, authentic premium cars more than ever before.
Great brand positioning means huge discipline, focus and a very long-term vision. Audi, for example, has come a very long way since the Ur quattro was cheerily displayed in the corner of a VW showroom on a brown shag-pile carpet in the early 80s. The firm’s model strategy and its clear brand positioning has brought it a meteoric rise to success, and a fourth-place ranking in the league table of all car brands on sale in Britain.
The most exciting prospect of all is that we have seen nothing yet. In the next 10 years we will see a rollercoaster-like journey of change in the automotive arena that will make the last 30 years seem dull. But for me it’s been the most intriguing and unrepeatably tremendous ride so far.