* Co invests in new showrooms, service centres
* Sees sales of 20,000 or more in region by 2020
* Sales jump 16.4 percent in region in 2012
* Lebanon, Jordan hitting targets, Syria stays suspended
* Expects MidEast premium car market grow 12-15 pct in 2013
By Martin Dokoupil
DUBAI, Jan 21 German luxury car maker Audi plans
to double its Middle East sales to at least 20,000 vehicles a
year by 2020, helped by investment in showrooms and service
centres, its local chief said.
"It is the minimum target. You have to have buildings, you
have to have capacity," Trevor Hill, managing director of Audi
Middle East, told Reuters on Monday following a presentation on
its 2012 sales in Dubai's sail-shaped Burj Al Arab hotel, a
symbol of the emirate's expansion in the last decade.
"Already those investments have been signed off, most of
them have been made already ... So half the battle is already
won (in) creating capacity and now we have to work in terms of
volume improvement and in terms of quality," he said.
Audi, a Volkswagen AG unit which booked a 16.4
percent sales jump to a record 9,155 units in the Middle East in
2012, aims to sell at least 10,000 vehicles in the region in
2013, Hill told the presentation.
Together with its local partners, Audi has seven major
construction projects on the way, including showrooms and
after-sales service facilities in the UAE, Oman and Qatar. The
brand needs to double its workshop capacity in the region, Hill
Globally Audi plans to boost deliveries to more than 2
million cars and sport-utility vehicles by 2020, as it aims to
snatch leadership of the luxury car market from BMW.
The Volkswagen division expects sales in the premium segment
sales to surge by between 12 and 15 percent in the Middle East
this year, while the overall passenger car market could see a
rise of 6 to 8 percent from an estimated 1.1 to 1.2 million
vehicles sold in 2012, Hill told Reuters.
Unrest in the Arab world since early 2011 may have helped to
boost Audi's sales in the UAE, its top market in the region, as
the country benefited from its safe-haven status, drawing in
businesses and expatriates.
"Dubai is growing quite rapidly so that will create a lot
more opportunities for us to sell. There is a lot of wealthy
people living in Dubai right now," Hill said.
The UAE made up 41 percent of Audi's total sales in the
region, with 3,819 units sold in 2012, up 21.7 percent. Saudi
Arabia, the Gulf's biggest market for volume rather than premium
passenger cars, followed with a 26 percent jump.
Audi, which has suspended operations in civil war-torn
Syria, did not see sales being hit in neighbouring Lebanon, and
in Jordan, which has also seen social unrest.
"We have not seen that much slowdown in Lebanon. Lebanon is
hitting the targets, Jordan is hitting its targets, so there are
no real spillovers for us in those markets," Hill said. "I think
it (sales) will keep growing (this year)."
Ingolstadt-based Audi expects to increase annual sales of
luxury cars and sport utility vehicles to 1.5 million earlier
than the planned 2015 target date, its CEO said this month.
On Sunday, U.S.-based Ford Motor Co, which has a 7.5
percent market share in the Middle East, reported record sales
of over 75,000 vehicles in the region for its Ford and Lincoln
brands in 2012, a 10 percent rise. It saw sales soar 55 percent
in the UAE, while Saudi Arabia and Lebanon were stable.
That is still behind Japan's Toyota Motor Corp,
which has a dominant share across the region and reported a 30
percent jump in sales to 650,000 units in 2012, local media
(Editing by David Holmes)