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Stephan Winkelmann

Audi Sport’s CEO Stephan Winkelmann reveals the German marque’s strategic drive to produce high-performance models

Audi Sport aims to give its customers a taste of exclusivity

Motor racing has been part of Audi’s DNA for many decades. Why is it so important to Audi?

I think it is the basis of our company. Looking at the cars, they are sporty models. A lot of them were also developed for racing purposes. The R8 is one such example. So it is part of the logic behind how we build cars and how we develop them. The name Audi Sport is the right match for this. The rules and history are also very important to our company and, in general, to other companies, especially when you are in a premium segment and or a high-end sports premium segment. Therefore, the rules and history are part of our success and are also important for tomorrow, because we started in the 1930s when the legendary “Silver Arrow” models of Auto Union were the ultimate benchmark for racing circuits worldwide and we have a very long motor sport history. I think this combination is important for us and this is also recognised by each and every customer.

Audi RS 3 LMS

Audi is transferring racing technology into the series production cars such as the RS 3 Sedan. Could you explain more in terms of the design, the equipment and the performance?

Not every RS model is meant to go on a race track. But 50 per cent of the parts in the R8 are also in the RS GT3. The design gives it a perfect balance. The engine is a mid rear-engine. So the car is exactly how a racing car should be. It’s clear that there is an idea behind all the other cars during the drawing phase. Picking the differences is awkward as it depends on time and the type of car. But lightweight materials, positioning and the balance of the car, all these things are clearly valid for both cars.

Which customers are you targeting?

There are many. They are entrepreneurs, people who are very much into sports cars in general and those who are faithful to German brands. It’s clear that Audi Sport’s RS model and the R8 are the most prestigious and sportiest cars we are producing. Therefore, the customers are those who are interested in those types of cars.

How would the high-speed experience of the models benefit customers in crowded urban centres such as Hong Kong and Macau?

The power reserve is important. The design is as important as the performance. Our cars have a perfect balance between daily useability and sports. The power reserve you have is already enough. Comfort, quality, design and performance are key. Your argument is valid because there are a lot of emotions and passions behind making such decisions. There are so many high-performance cars in Hong Kong. It boils down to the passion of the people for these types of cars as there is not always the opportunity to display the power. But we have to create the opportunity for these people to test the cars and let them drive on the racetrack under safe conditions.

With your Lamborghini background, would you push Audi into becoming more luxurious with exclusive customised cars?

Exclusivity is about what your neighbour does not have. It is all about the distinction. It is not only about luxury but about almost every opportunity in terms of colours, materials and everything you want to put into a car. It is a complex thing because it is not only about the Audi Sports model, but all the Audi models. I think it is a great opportunity because it is about individualisation in the population. Not only the cars but with everything you experience, it is very important to be different from the rest of the cars. I think this is a huge business opportunity. I experimented a lot on this while I was at Lamborghini. We will put more awareness into this programme so that people can have a taste of the exclusivity. This is a good way to show exclusivity and cars with different eyes so as to give customers greater choice.