Business

ATL Automotive now the number two vehicle seller in Jamaica

Volkswagen and Audi sales power ahead both at home and abroad

BY AL EDWARDS

Friday, March 16, 2012    

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ATL Automotive is now the number two automotive vehicle seller in Jamaica, according to recently released figures from the Automotive Dealers Association (ADA) official market reports for the period from January to February 2012. Still the undoubted and seemingly unassailable leader is Toyota Tsuho, which outstripped all its competitors.

ATL overtakes Stewart

ATL Automotive has now surpassed Stewart Automotive for the first time, selling 236 vehicles with 23.69 per cent of the local market. The Group is home to some of the world's leading marques including Audi, Land Rover/Range Rover, Jaguar, Volkswagen and Honda. ATL does very well with Honda which continues to be its top seller, with 113 vehicles coming off the lot which represents 11.35 per cent of the market. Back in 2010, ATL became the dealer for Volkswagen and it is quickly proving a hit for the Group with 81 vehicles sold. The pickup truck, the Amorak, is proving very popular and is making a mark in commercial vehicle sales.

The aim is to have Audi supplant BMW and become the number one premium car seller in Jamaica. In just under two years, the signs are encouraging and Audi is gaining good yardage for want of a sporting metaphor. The ADA report for January to February reveal that 25 Audi units were sold, still well below BMW's numbers. Audi now has 2.5 per cent of the market. Looking at the streets of both major cities, one notes the growing popularity of Audi.

It is proving a close race for second position with ATL Automotive just nosing ahead of Stewart Automotive for the first time since the ADA has been compiling sales data. Stewart still holds on to the position of the top premium car seller in Jamaica. This family business has seven brands under its banner which are: The ever popular Suzuki, Mitsubishi, Mitsubishi Fuso, Mini, Mercedes Benz Commercial, Mercedes Benz and BMW.

Making progress

Speaking with Caribbean Business Report from ATL's Autohaus headquarters on Oxford Road ATL, Automotive's Managing Director Brian Stevenson said: "These figures are very encouraging and mean that we are making progress. We only started operating ATL Autohaus in April 2010 and got our first product in August of that year. We never had a full operating year in 2010, and 2011 was our full operating year which saw us beginning to establish ourselves. Audi hit a record in this country in 2011, selling 123 units with Volkswagen also establishing a record with 300 units sold that year.Also Jaguar/Land Rover made the record books with us selling 62 units. All this is remarkable, considering it was our first year of operation.

ATL Automotive only got its branch in Montego Bay up and running in October 2010. Initially there was a hiccup but it is now onstream and according to Stevenson, it is turning out the numbers the Group wants. It is now selling around 25 vehicles a month. He further added that it has made tremendous strides with Audi which has a very good after-sales team.

ATL is now offering a wider range of Audi product, which includes the new A6 (3-litre V6), the A1 which is going up against the Mini, the A3, a redesigned A4, and an impressive A7 (3-litre Turbo Supercharged).

Audi sales up in Jamaica

It has noted a demand for the Q5 and is getting more units in to meet that demand. It also will be offering a gasoline Q7, and the new Q3 will be here in Jamaica somewhere around the middle of the year. If the Q5 sales are anything to go by, the Q3 should prove popular. It has the same engine as the Q5 so it should be a little pocket rocket.

"Our Audi after-sales team is fantastic. They recently came third in a competition on technical issues that included countries from Latin America and the Caribbean. We were up against countries like Chile, Venezuela and Panama. We beat Colombia which is bigger than us and for us to come third is a huge achievement, and Audi is recognising this as well," said Stevenson.

ATL clocks record sales with Volkswagen

Last year, ATL Automotive had record sales with Volkswagen despite going months without Tiguan, Jetta and the new Passat. Today, it has the full range of Volkswagen vehicles.

"The 1.4 Turbo Supercharge Jetta is awesome. Its pricing and fuel efficiency makes it most impressive indeed. The Passat CC is a class car. The Passat should be in the same category as the Audi A6. The 2-litre model has all the bells and whistles and it is very refined. We now have the 3.6 Touareg V6 gas and we also have the new Tiguan. We now have offerings in the top end market, the middle market and we are looking to compete in the 4X2 market. If you are talking about Volkswagen Commercial and the Amorak, we are probably the top sellers in the region.Volkswagen Germany has said that outside of Europe we have the highest penetration. Jamaica is a small market but we have achieved that and continue to position the Amorak well. We now have to go after the panel van market and take on the Toyota Coaster.We are looking at Volkswagen going from 300 units sold last year to 600 units this year," said the ATL Automotive boss. Last year the Amorak captured 25 per cent of the mid-size pick-up truck segment.

Jaguar and Land Rover

As far as Jaguar is concerned, sales are a little slow. The challenge here remains getting Jamaicans to understand the premium quality of the revitalised Jaguar. When Jaguar was with Ford, unfortunately the marque lost a lot of its lustre. However, ATL is now behind it and is pushing it hard, particularly the 3-litre diesel model. In the United States the JD Power rating for Jaguar is higher than that for Lexus and Mercedes Benz.

Stevenson notes that sales of the Range Rover have been steady. Unfortunately with the current duty structure ATL can only bring in the Range Rover Sport. It has undergone some major improvements and sales of the 2012 model have been brisk. The 3-Litre Turbo Diesel model is probably the best performer in its class with the best torque to be found. The recently released Range Rover Evoque, which bears the interior design touches of Victoria Beckham, is a good seller, but due to world demand there are a small number of units available in Jamaica.

The Discovery's popularity in Jamaica continues to grow and it too has undergone engineering improvements. Such is the demand for the D4 that there is a shortage of product for the Latin American and Caribbean region. Stevenson sought to explain ATL's dilemma with Land/Range Rover: " On a monthly basis we put in a request for 12 to 14 units and we end up getting only between 6 to 8. That's about 50 per cent of what we request."

Earlier this year ATL broke ground a US$14-million showroom on Kingston's Oxford Road. This decision may have been prompted by a 540 per cent increase in Audi sales in 2011 and ATL being well on its way to attaining a sales target of 614 units.

"Once we go into the VW and Audi new showrooms and people see those state-of-the-art facilities it will draw people to them. They will play a big part in moving the brands further upwards. The showrooms we are building are just as impressive as those found in Europe and North America. We are also investing heavily on the after-sales side and we are setting up our own in-house training facility on Hagley Park Road. There will also be a new parts depot there for all our brands as well as a new body shop. It is very important that we institute our apprenticeship program so that we can develop our own skilled people and not rely on external personnel.

We have plans to launch ATL Automotive in other parts of the Caribbean and having our own trained personnel will help us with that. They will be schooled in the "Unbeatable" way and then pass on what they have learnt to technicians in these other Caribbean countries.

The appeal of Audi

Audi has declared that by 2018, it will surpass BMW as the top selling premium car in the world. Stevenson is particularly impressed by the brand's level of innovation and aggressiveness in reaching for its stated mission whilst being cool and sophisticated at the same time.

"Many Jamaicans in the upper strata of society are very well read and are very fastidious about what they drive. They are well acquainted with Audi and in many cases know more about the vehicles when they come in than our own staff. One of the things I have noticed is that they don't want to follow in their father's footsteps and drive a Mercedes Benz.They don't want to follow someone else into BMW, because everybody who has done reasonably well drives a BMW. No, they want to be distinguishable and Audi is seen as being different. Steve Jobs who founded and ran Apple drove an Audi: that's the type of person who is in an Audi. Many of the key personnel at Manchester United drive Audi and it is a sponsor of the football club. Audi is a very sporty premium car but it is also a cool car. The brand is at the cutting edge of technology, look what it did with diesel technology. It's quattro system changed the game and took the brand to a whole new level.If you aspire to being progressive and sophisticated then the car you drive is Audi."

How can ATL catch Toyota in Jamaica?

Toyota is the undisputed king of Jamaica However, renowned for their reliability and performance they have a vehicle for every category. Although ATL has gained ground, it still has some way to go before Toyota can begin to look over its shoulder. So then, how can ATL get to pole position?

"We have to analyse every market segment and compete aggressively in all of them. The only segment we are not is the one the Toyota Yaris dominates. We have to find a vehicle that can go and match that low-end price point segment which the Yaris does so well in. We must also look to take on the Rav 4. Just two months into this year Toyota has sold 177 Rav 4s which is awesome. Toyota has brought down the price of the Rav 4, to where it is now, competing with the Suzuki Vitara. We need to get the Tiguan in a 4x2 form with a 1.4 engine to go head to head with the Rav 4.

"We have to find a way to tackle the Prado which is immensely popular in Jamaica.

It rules the mid-size SUV category and has done so for years. The larger Landcruisers are not really big sellers. Toyota dominates with the Corolla, the Prado, the Yaris and the Rav 4. On the bus side there can be no doubt that it leads with the Coaster, nothing comes close. We have to try to find something there that can match it. We have to see what we can further do with our Honda products in an effort to take on Toyota. In fact we have to take a good look at all our brands and say to ourselves, how can we topple Toyota.

Something we could do is bring in a volume brand. With the Jamaican economy continuing to contract, price, practicality and reliability are determining factors in purchasing a vehicle. These have proven to be Toyota's unique selling points.

Stevenson is not perturbed; the way he sees it ATL has to get over that. Toyota has this big reliability reputation. He believes that the vehicles in the ATL stable can match Toyota in that department and in fact many have better engineering.

"We are going to out-service them and when people are looking to buy a vehicle from an ATL brand they have to know that I am going to get the very best in service and reliability. I think there are many ways to catch Toyota and our new showrooms are just one of them. We will create a new motor town the likes of which has never been seen before in Jamaica. It will house Honda, Jaguar, Land Rover, Audi and Volkswagen, all in the heart of the Corporate Area of Kingston."

Volkswagen and Audi sales increase worldwide

Earlier this week the parent company of Audi , the Volkswagen Group, reported record vehicle sales, sales revenue and earnings for 2011. With eight million vehicles sold, Sales revenue was up by 25.6 per cent to 159.3 billion euro. Total sales were up by more than one million vehicles year-on-year. Volkswagen sold 5.1 million passenger cars up 13.1 per cent on 2010 and Audi sold 1.3 million cars, up from 1.1 million in 2010. Already deliveries are up 7.7 per cent in the first two months of this year. Operating profit grew by over half to 11.3 billion euro.

At a press conference in Wolfsburg, Germany, chairman of Volkswagen's Board of Management Professor Dr Martin Winterkorn said: "The VW Group has extended its string of unbroken successes in 2011. We are making steady progress on our way to pole position in the automotive industry." VW has set itself the goal of becoming the biggest car maker from 2018 onwards. It is now behind GM and has to catch Toyota to become the biggest car company in the world.

Audi's operating profit surged by 60 per cent to 5.35 billion euro (US$7.14 billion) for 2011, up from the 3.34 billion euro in the previous year. Revenue rose 24 per cent to 44.1 billion euro a record high boosted by a 37 per cent gain in deliveries in China, its largest market. Last month alone Audi delivered 106,600 cars worldwide, an increase of 16.6 per cent. As a result of these positive results,Audi is paying out 390 million euro in bonuses this year which is good news to its 45,000 German employees.On average, employees are set to earn an extra 8,251 in bonuses, said Audi bosses at the company's headquarters in Ingolstadt.

Audi's main rival BMW reported a record profit margin but it still wasn't as profitable as Audi.According to a report in Automotive News, BMW booked an 11.8 per cent profit margin, up from 8 per cent last year.Audi, however, managed 12.1 per cent. Both figures were calculated using the earnings before interest and tax method (EBIT). However, BMW still led Audi and Mercedes -Benz as the top-selling luxury brand in 2011.

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