Audi Considering Mobility Initiatives Offered Through Its Dealers

In the past several months, the rush of major automakers to partner with leading mobility providers looks like a gold rush.

Audi however has not joined this mishmash. Instead, it has remained in the background trying to determine what mobility plan would be the best fit.

In the U.S., Audi of America management is discussing proposals on mobility initiatives that would be offered through its dealer network, according to WardsAuto.

The automaker says that such a game plan offers both a competitive advantage and a necessity as new transportation business models emerge.

Not exploiting that advantage would be a huge mistake, said Scott Reynolds, Audi mobility business development manager, to WardsAuto at the TU Automotive Detroit 2016 vehicle-connectivity conference and exposition.

“We have a lot of brick and mortar out there,” said Reynolds. “If we’re not thoughtful about involving our dealers as partners, we’re going to be looking the gift horse in the mouth, so to speak.”

It’s not clear if dealers are ready or willing to join the new-mobility fray, Reynolds admitted, adding that it’s hard to gauge dealer receptiveness without a concrete proposition.

The Audi executive declined to provide details on what the options or timing might be.

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Currently, the automaker has two experimental programs, where it has partnered with condominium complexes in Miami and San Francisco to provide rent-by-the-hour vehicles to residents, with very different results.

The program has been a hit in San Francisco, Reynolds said, where the for-hire Audis have become “must-haves.” In Miami, however, many of the cars have gathered dust. “There’s still very much an ownership mentality (in Florida).”

This is where the dealer network would come in.

Reynolds said Audi wants to offer a suite of service programs through its retailers so customers have a variety of vehicles that meet specific needs: a small battery-electric for commuting, or perhaps, a larger gasoline-powered vehicle when more passenger room and longer driving range are needed.

“Getting dealers involved is how to turn on the suburban area,” he said. “If we leave dealers out of this core business, we’re going to have a big problem.”