BEIJING – Audi China, the wholly-owned subsidiary of Audi AG, issued a statement of apology on March 16 on its website (www.audichina.cn) over an use of an incorrect Chinese geographical map in a presentation at its Annual Press Conference held at its corporate headquarters in Ingolstadt, Germany on March 15.
“At the Audi Annual Press Conference on March 15, an incorrect geographical map was included in a speech presentation. This hurt the feelings of Chinese people. This was a serious mistake for which Audi wants to sincerely apologise. This is also a profound lesson from which Audi learns,” said the statement.
According to a photo circulated on Chinese social media depicting the presentation slide explaining Audi’s two-partner strategy in China with FAW-Volkswagen in Changchun and SAIC Motor in Shanghai, a map of China with the Chinese flag ebedded within the map boundaries obvoiusly had Taiwan missing as well as several other regions and islands under Chinese jurisdiction missing upon closer look.
The photo quickly drew crticism from the Chinese auto media and industry circles demanding an apology from Audi.
Audi sold 591,554 cars in China including Hong Kong last year, maintaining its position as the bestselling premium brand in China. But the brand with the four rings has been in a funk as of late as it weathers a sharp drop in sales over the first two months of the year (sales were down 24 percent to 67,336 units through to February, putting it in third place behind Mercedes-Benz and BMW), a situation that the company described as “Chinese dealers managing their business cautiously.”
Audi has been in a tug-of-war with Chinese dealers ever since it signed a cooperation framework MOU last November with SAIC Motor on the possibility of producing and selling Audis via the SAIC-Volkswagen joint venture, just as parent company Volkswagen AG does with producing and selling Volkswagen brand vehicles at both FAW-Volkswagen and SAIC-Volkswagen JVs. The existing Audi dealers in China issued a “Sanya Declaration” a month ago demanding Audi work with them to get to the one million annual sales target in 2020 before it can continue discussions further with SAIC Motor.
But as is evident on the presentation slide, Audi is firm on its two-partner strategy in China and a definitive agreement could be forthcoming with SAIC Motor as soon as this year.
From the editor:
The Chinese map blunder is a serious and dumb mistake that should not have happened for the most well-known luxury brand that has led China in luxury vehicle sales for nearly 30 years ever since its entry into the country in 1988. It certainly is a hard lesson learned for Audi but should also serve as a reminder for all multinational brands operating in China: the intracacies of this unique market should be taken seriously, or they could bite you in the back.
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