AUDI – What more could you ask for? Stylish, high performance and sustainable – An interview with Cristian Milea, Brand Manager AUDI Romania
Rhapsody M. Thank you for accepting our invitation, I would like to start by congratulating you on your new position, as Brand Manager, for AUDI Romania. Please tell us a few words about your career in the automotive industry and how did it all begin?
Cristian M. I have been linked with the automotive area since I was a teenager. One of the first passions, that my younger version developed, was the one for cars. It started with me being fascinated about all types of cars, but then I took the decision of following a career path within the automotive industry. I have a bachelor’s degree in Automotive. This gave me the opportunity to be selected by the Daewoo Romania manufacturer to be part of the team. I started working in this field in 1995. In 2012, I became the Country Director for Opel Southeast Europe LLC. Simultaneously, I have been a member of the Steering Committee of APIA since 2009 and since 2019 I have been the president of the board.
Rhapsody M. What do you think has changed in the car industry in recent years?
Cristian M.In the last decade, the whole dynamic of this industry segment has undergone an acceleration. When I say dynamic, what I mean is everything that defines this industry: from the product life cycle, to the changes that the technology behind these products is going through. The emergence of new technologies and the upgrading of the existing ones is being done much faster than the industry itself had established as a way of progressing, 10 years ago. If we look at the Audi range, any model receives a facelift every 3-4 years. From a technological and economic perspective, this was not possible before. Now things are done at a completely different pace. I am talking about technology changes, like when you – for example – decide to switch to electric. You start off with a product and then, the following year, you already offer, as a manufacturer, 8 hybrids and 3 full electric cars. This applies to all manufacturers and represents a paradigm shift in this industry.
Rhapsody M. AUDI AG ended 2020 with the most successful quarter-year in the company’s history, the company supplied more than half a million in a quarter for the first time ever. What made this success possible, and how helped the Romanian market to achieve it?
Cristian M. First of all, the success of Audi AG was possible thanks to the extraordinary international performance of the Audi team. Also, the process of digitalizing the sales had a big contribution. Audi managed to adapt really quickly to all these changes, making all our services available online.
AUDI AG is continuing its transformation into a provider of sustainable premium mobility. Our model Audi e-tron, including the Audi e-tron Sportback, registered a significant increase in overall demand last year, with growth of 79.5 percent, namely 47,324 cars. This made Audi e-tron the global top seller among electric vehicles made by German premium manufacturers. In respect of other models in the range, Audi AG increased deliveries especially for the Audi Q3 (+18.1% in comparison to the previous year) and the Audi A6 (+11.8%).
Thus, the process of moving everything in online and all the experience that we gained in spring, when these sad times were just at the beginning and of course, our popular model, the Audi e-tron, contributed to Audi ending 2020 with this big success.
Rhapsody M. High performance and environmental awareness go hand-in-hand at Audi. The automotive industry is clearly facing an electric revolution. What surprises does AUDI prepare for the future in this respect? Can you tell us more about Artemis project?
Cristian M. Currently, The Volkswagen Group has an electric initiative with 75 electric models planned by 2029. The challenge is to implement additional high-tech standards, while preserving the manageability of existing projects, and also taking advantage of the new opportunities in the markets.
The purpose of the Artemis project is to come up with new technologies for electric, highly automated driving with a specific model reference. Its first task is to create an electric car, that is highly efficient, and which will probably be on the road as early as 2024.
Rhapsody M. Continuing on the sustainability side… Audi AG isthe first car manufacturer to be awarded the Chain of Custody – the certificate of the Aluminum Stewardship Initiative, showing that the resource efficiency is the key to an industry that is fit for the future. What other measures and initiatives are part of Audi Sustainability Strategy?
Cristian M. Audi AG was very honored to receive this award, which certified the fact that the company can comply with the materials flow chain for sustainably produced aluminum in accordance with the ASI standard and can also input correspondingly certified material to the Aluminum Closed Loop with its suppliers. The Initiative also focuses on the people who are part of the aluminum supply chain, making sure that the team respects human rights across the value chain, while also working to produce joint solutions for complying with these rights.
Audi has another pilot project which supports sustainability, and this one is in collaboration with the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology. The “Chemical Recycling of Plastics in Automotive Engineering” project targets the creation of smart circular systems for plastics, an efficient use of resources and the production of more environmentally friendly automobiles. Audi is planning to gradually increase the proportion of secondary materials in its models and one of the most recent examples is the utilization of PET, which is a plastic polymer easier to recycle, in the Audi A3.
Rhapsody M. The last year, and probably this year too, most of the activities (sales, marketing, communication) will take place virtually …. please share with us some insights on how Audi reacted to the challenges of the corona pandemic.
Cristian M. Audi has adapted very quickly to this unfortunate situation caused by the pandemic. We were one of the first companies to offer “VIP” services. By this, I mean that we are willing to go to the client’s headquarters and bring their new car there or even do home delivery. The company digitalized all collaborations and we keep the communication strictly online. Everybody works remotely, but still efficiently. I would say that we manage to keep in touch, while keeping the distance.
Rhapsody M. The Audi e-tron is the global top seller among electric vehicles made by German premium manufacturers. In the meantime, the electric cars sales registered in Romania one of the biggest increases in Europe. What are your expectations, in terms of sales, and what are the main targets in 2021 for the Romanian market?
Cristian M. We are setting the bar higher. We aim to maintain the growth rate that you just mentioned when you talked about the best quarter in the history of the brand. It is an issue that also falls on the reality of the Romanian market, where the results of the last month of 2020 prove a very good brand growth dynamic. Our goal is to support this growth and to keep its dynamics. We want to lay the foundation for a sustainable progress.
Rhapsody M. What is your dream car, and why?
Cristian M. Audi A6 Allroad – an aspirational model.
Rhapsody M. The future of mobility in 3 words?
Cristian M. Personal / Efficient / Green.