Interview Lahouari Bennaoum: director of Audi France

Interview Lahouari Bennaoum: director of Audi France

At a conference on new mobility, the director of Audi France gave us his point of view on the future of the automobile and the introduction of the super penalty in France.

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Lahouari Bennaoum

At a conference on new mobility, the director of Audi France gave us his point of view on the future of the automobile and the introduction of the super penalty in France.

How is the Audi brand doing in France and in the world?

With 1,845,550 units sold worldwide, Audi is doing well and progressed 1.8% in 2019. In France, 57,533 cars were sold (+ 11.5%). We should do better in 2020, with the arrival of the new A3.

You know China well for having led Citroen there. Do you fear that it will become a less important market for importers, with a clientele inclined to buy “local” (interview conducted before the Coronavirus, editor’s note) ?

Chinese brands are progressing enormously. In particular the generalists, who manage to produce very competitive cars. However, making premium takes time. Today, a Chinese customer who wants to buy a premium vehicle is looking at what is being done outside of China. So, if we are still preserved, we remain vigilant. Because everything can go very quickly.

The new WLTP certification cycle deprived you of some sales in Europe last year. Have some of your customers also gone to your competitors?

In 2018, our deadlines lengthened. Some of our customers, at the end of the rental contract, then went to other manufacturers. However, the preventive measures that we implemented for the second WLTP phase in 2019 enabled us to deliver on time.

Some of your colleagues fear the new super penalty of € 20,000 imposed in France, which practically only affects foreign manufacturers. What is your point of view ?

Penalties, bonuses and taxes require us to work in this environment. In fact, some engines will be impacted. Some of our customers will no longer be able to pay these taxes, while others will refuse this “extra-taxation”. But we must nevertheless keep certain large engines in order to satisfy those, undoubtedly less numerous, who will decide to override. To be more in line with French taxes, we have however revised our sales mix, favoring hybrids and less powerful engines.

What about diesel?

It remains the offer suitable for heavy wheelers, especially in companies, thanks to CO values2 advantageous. The rechargeable hybrid is interesting when you can recharge your vehicle at home and / or at the office.

The new Audi RS6 requires more than € 30,000 in taxes to be registered. Is this an obstacle for your customers?

All the RS6 allocated for France are already sold. Our quotas, it is true, were quite low (around 50 units this year). The RS6 is iconic. It is almost a brand. No other manufacturer in the world offers such a product: performance, comfort, space and safety, everything is there! A success that has lasted for twenty-five years.

Is electric the best solution for driving clean?

Right now, yes. And as long as the batteries are recycled properly. We are doing this, for example, by relocating them to the EUREF campus in Berlin, as storage units. Then we reach sufficient levels of autonomy and the deployment of charging stations makes the electric car viable. But we will have to find other solutions to reduce our CO emissions2. And this affects not only the automobile, but all industries. Electric is a heading. Fifteen years from now, we’ll probably have a new technology like maybe the fuel cell, which we’re also working on.

Let’s talk about you. What was your first car?

A Peugeot 104, which must have died since!

The one you drive everyday?

An e-tron most of the time. I can recharge at the office, but not at home: I live in Paris! However, I just sprained spending a few days behind the wheel of a Q3 Sportback.

And the one of your dreams?

I have a weakness for the Q3 Sportback, which offers an original line in a contained template. Then I look forward to the GT e-tron. I saw different prototypes and the “wow!” Effect is indisputable. I can’t wait to see it in dynamics.


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