What do you see as the significant new trends in the industry?
We are seeing a transformation in the industry; a huge change in the way that manufacturers are moving forward. We all have good products. You have seen everyone step-up in the past few years with better product. It can be electronics, engines, transmissions, any number of things. Advanced technology is coming into vehicles more and more in so many different ways.
The next step, at least at Audi, is being innovators in customer satisfaction. How we interact with people, how our product works for people, the impression that is left with people when they think about Audi.
Audi is making huge investments in our facilities and our people in order to become more client-centric. This year, Audi built 33 new stand-alone dealerships – all LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) Certified. We’ve made a huge investment in the education of our people – from the service desk, the sales reps, all the way through the front desk receptionist. We want to make sure the sales process is done in a way which is meaningful to the client, one which respects the client’s time and builds trust.
We see a number of buyers who wish to spend time learning and reviewing the technology of the vehicle itself; they don’t want to spend time with the person who is doing financing and setting up their license, title and registration. Understanding this, building processes around this, creating an experience which people enjoy helps us create loyal fans and a new appreciation for our brand.
How is Audi working with its fleet clients?
We work with fleet clients directly, enabling them to direct order through their fleet management companies. We work diligently to deliver vehicles at the local dealership. A lot of those things we do are in line with the industry up to this point.
There are other programs for clients that provide more of an Audi experience. For example, we provide the dealer a large fee to process the courtesy delivery — $450.00. Dealers treat our deliveries the same as a retail sale, insuring a true Audi delivery, an experience that is consistent.
I believe that you will find most companies that opt for Audi, or are at least giving us a serious look, is because they wish to be different. These are companies that put the emphasis on how they can support their most important investment — their people. Audi can be a big win for them because it differentiates them from their competitors. It certainly pays dividends for a company’s recruiting and retention of people. You see this philosophy in Europe where quite a few of our vehicles are used for the same reason. Companies here in America who wish to differentiate themselves are following suit.
You recently attended NAFA’s International Fleet Academy. What are your thoughts on the event?
NAFA’s International Fleet Academy was a great forum for people to learn about what has been happening globally with fleet. To be able to understand the differentiators that are happening in the marketplace be it in China, Germany, England, Argentina, Brazil, and even here in the Americas, is a tall order. There are so many complexities in being able to manage a fleet only here in the United States. But then add to it currency exchange rates, differences in measurements – kilos versus gallons and performance measures, CO2 emission requirements that are mandated coupled with taxation mandates by different countries….it is endless.
NAFA’s IFA gives a global fleet manager the breadth of the complexities – where to start, what should be measured, what’s most important.
What about your own personal experience at IFA? What stood out for you?
Managing a fleet globally is certainly not something that can be taken lightly. It is going to take quite a bit of time and investment, quite a bit of effective working knowledge. One of the things I found really important for the person tasked with managing a global fleet is to build relationships. Not to do it over Skype or through email; they need to make it personal and be in touch with people. They need to be able to sit with their colleagues from other countries, press the flesh and understand what the goals are for that particular region.
It’s clear to me that it is a huge plus to be able to have that kind of relationship and really understand why they are doing things the way they are doing them. Getting input and the blessing of the local fleet managers can only help expedite the integration of a corporate global fleet program.
You have been a member of NAFA for many years; what value has NAFA brought to you?
NAFA is unrivaled in education and bringing people a full understanding what is happening inside the industry. Manufacturers, fleet management companies, fleet managers and our clients, drivers — all benefit from NAFA’s programs. Having the ability to bring all these forces together to be able to have that kind of communication and conversation under one roof is amazing.
Michael is responsible for developing new commercial fleet business and creating enthused Audi Brand Champions in the US markets. During the past six years, he has worked closely with numerous fleet managers, corporate fleet management companies, Audi dealerships, and other business partners to provide progressive mobility solutions.
Michael’s tenure in the fleet industry covers more than 24 years and includes employment with US Fleet Leasing, Wheels Inc., and National Car Rental. Moreover, as a former ASE certified mechanic, Michael’s diverse background provides him with a unique viewpoint of the automotive industry, both past and present.