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Audi improve global and Oz sales

Last year was the company's best ever year in global terms, with sales up 15 per cent to 1.09 million vehicles, the books in the black and a target of 1.2 million for this year.

The brand's Australian arm also scored it's best-ever result - 12,900 cars last year, a 14 per cent increase thanks in no small part to seven new variants.  So far this year the brand is on target for it's volume aims, but Audi Australia managing director Uwe Hagen is determined to do more than watch the numbers.

"The cars need to be desirable as part of a premium brand, getting smiles from those on the side of the road.  It's not just about volume in the A7, if we get the right people into this car - in sales, you get the captain, you get the soldiers," he says.

The Audi Australia product catalgue will have the 4.2-litre turbodiesel engine as well as a long-wheelbase model for the new A8 range, as well as the new A6 and the Q3 mini-SUV next year.

Mr Hagen says it's a 9.5 billion Euro investment over the next five years in new product, done with the backing of the VW group - something for which he does not apologise.

"Volkswagen is a group of 7.2 million cars, if I'm buying 7.2 million batteries or one million batteries, VW gets them cheaper but it's the same quality, the market strength is an advantage," he says.

"If we develop a new electronic system, it's not a disadvanatge because the development can be integrated in different products, you can share the knowledge.  Saving money is an intelligent smart way, without losing the idea of the product - we are convinced of this with our brand, we would be stupid not to take advantage of this large group," he says.

Leaner costs help the bottom line and new models boost the sales numbers, but Mr Hagen is also looking to the "pre-owned" side of the business to bring new people into the Audi family - "it's a huge chance to get people into the brand."

Audi says its "Approved:plus" vehicles are inspected and come backed with a factory two-year unlimited-kilometre warranty with roadside assist.  Mr Hagen says the after sales side - and customer satisfaction - are also important weapons in building customer loyalty, likening it to interest in a bank account.

Mr Hagen said the word of mouth is important for a brand, as people are more critical when giving a recommendation.  "The most challenging thing for a premium brand is customer expectation," he says.