Even for a man who once rode a 1,000-mile bike ride, Lee Rabjohn, the man who oversees Audi Middle East’s fleet operation, has racked up some impressive mileage on both sides of the dealer channel.

The VW Group veteran once swapped a leading role at Audi UK to join one of the country’s largest dealer groups Marshall Motor Group (MMG) as the head of its Group Fleet Division. Passing over two decades of service in the automotive industry, he re-joined Audi last year to manage and develop its fleet sales across the 11 countries, 12 importers and 24 dealer facilities it has developed in the GCC and Levant region. He tells T&FME that the market in the Middle East presents an exciting opportunity for Audi, a brand that enjoys an elite position, alongside Mercedes and BMW, inside a triumvirate of famous premium marques from Germany.

“I am genuinely looking forward to being part of this journey. We have already delivered growth in 2019 and with the exception of the current COVID-19 crisis, will be endeavouring to maintain the momentum and improve the market offer,” he says, adding that Audi is pivoting as the fleet market evolves in his new homebase .

“Besides the conventional RAC (Rent-a-Car) and Corporate businesses that operate here, there are opportunities for the introduction of new routes to market, the development of funding methods for fleets and also the genuine interest and want to explore and adopt new technologies such as electric and alternative fuelled vehicle and concepts such as MaaS (Mobility-as-a-Service).”

Like its peers, Audi has endured a turbulent period since the global economy took a hit over a decade ago. However, 2019 showed there are signs of promise with Audi enjoying global growth in deliveries of 1.8%. The fleet side looks even brighter, with Audi fleet and corporate sales outperforming the market in 2019 with a 17% increase in volume Year-on-Year. Rabjohn suggests that much of this progress has been helped by a refresh of Audi’s offering to fleets and a growing customer base.

“Audi is looking on course for future growth in 2020,” he remarks. “As part of our broad-based model initiative, we have significantly expanded and rejuvenated our portfolio, and can proudly confirm that we will have our youngest model range ever with some familiar models getting an update for the region.”

Dealer support in the GCC and the Near East is coordinated from its regional headquarters within Dubai Airport Free Zone and the office is home for its efforts in dealer development, sales support programs, training, as well as customer engagement through a variety of platforms and programmes.

Rabjohn explains that working closely with dealers is fundamental to Audi’s progress in the region.

“The fleet and corporate strategy is built through working and supporting our respective dealers in each country linked with a market offer that extends from SMEs through to governmental and large corporations,” he explains.

“With such a diverse range of cars from our entry level Audi A3 Sedan through to the luxury of the A8, and the driving capabilities of all our SUV’s we have a car to meet most customers’ requirements. Throughout the GCC region, we supply many types of businesses including SME’s, government departments, corporate organisations, RAC, hotels, and also a number of VIP’s. We are also proud to work with the Dubai Police.”

“As a premium car brand, we naturally want to be represented in all the appropriate fleet and corporate sectors as our customers and drivers of our products are our advocates. Through the support of the supplying dealers in each market we are able to provide excellent service throughout the buying process and throughout the life of the car with the aftersales service.”

While Audi has a number of customer relationships in every country, Rabjohn notes there is scope and a desire to work with many more.

“Through our future products, market offers and network development and support we will be increasing these relationships and are excited to bring our cars to more people.
His colleague and managing director of Audi Middle East Carsten Bender asked teams to implement a ‘Consistently Customer’ strategy for 2020 which places customers at the centre of the business. With the market coming to terms with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s an approach that seems both timely and necessary.

“As a team we subscribe to the strategy. This is the way we are responding to the current challenges and actively shaping changes in the future,” Rabjohn explains. Through it, he says, Audi must value every customer, in every country.

“The exciting part about operating in this region is the diverse nature of the culture and the different business and sectors that operate here. As a premium brand we are keen to work with all types of businesses, understand their needs and find a solution for them. Working with each of the dealers in each country we are able to find a solution to each sector or country’s requirements.”

Read the full article in the upcoming July/August issue of T&FME.