THE global ‘Dieselgate’ emissions scandal has hit home, with the local boss of Audi admitting it has caused customer dissatisfaction and has seen sales of its popular Q5 SUV slump by more than a third.
Speaking at the Australian launch of the 2016 Audi R8, company MD Andrew Doyle revealed exclusively to Wheels that local customers have been vocal about the handling of the ongoing saga, which first broke in September last year.
“From a customer point of view, there’s been some frustration,” Doyle admitted to Wheels. “From those who have affected vehicles in this country about the length of time it’s taken to get the recall in place.
“I’m pleased to announce we’re imminently about to start our first recall and that will then be released in waves over the coming months.”
More than two million Audis are caught up in the emissions-cheating scandal worldwide, with just over 16,000 local vehicles fitted with the offending 1.6- and 2.0-litre diesel engines.
“In terms of our sales they’re still quite strong this year and we’re proud of that,” said Doyle. “But if you look at our numbers model by model, you’ll see Q5 is down quite a bit. Yes it’s in its penultimate year, but more importantly from an emissions point of view is we did have a 2.0-litre diesel that represented more than 30 percent share of the Q5.
“That’s impacted us on a sales basis in terms of year-to-year growth, especially in the Q5 which is one of our biggest-selling model.”
VFACTS data released today show that despite the Q5’s drop, Audi sales still grew by 8.3 percent last month. However the German brand lost ground to fierce rivals BMW and Mercedes, which grew 27.7 and 17.6 percent respectively.
Volkswagen’s local sales have dropped too, with total sales down by 4.2 percent year-to-date.
Despite the negative attention on dieselgate globally, no Volkswagen, Audi or other vehicle has been found in breach of Australian emission standards. That said, both VW and Audi plan to recall vehicles to remove the cheat software at the centre of the scandal.
Despite the Audi Q5’s sales hit, Doyle is confident sales will bounce back.
“We’re really excited that the Q5’s EU6 engine, which is not affected, is imminently arriving and we have a lot of customer orders for that car because it has been a very popular car for some time,” he said. “So we’re confident Q5 sales will come back to where they were.”
Doyle admitted regaining the public’s trust is key to rebuilding the brand’s sales momentum.
“From a sales point of view, from a brand point of view, we’re super conscious of what it will mean from a global point of view to rebuild their [the public’s] trust. We haven’t had an overly negative response in Australia, I’m pleased to say, and I don’t think that’s anything to be excited about, that’s more to do with the fact we’ve tried to be as open and as pragmatic and as transparent as we can be with the information we did have.
“We wrote to our customers immediately, we advised our dealers of everything we knew, and openly said to our dealers and our customers this is a hugely complex discussion because there are so many variations of software that need to be fixed.
“So now is the time to be not super quick, but rather super careful to make sure everything is 100 percent right. And we’ve done that.”