Charting the course
Audi Australia Managing Director, Paul Sansom,
is setting a course for the long-term prosperity
of the brand Down Under.
2 October, 2018
There is a small picture frame on a side table in Paul Sansom’s office that gives an important insight into the man with the top job at Audi Australia.
It contains a diagram tracing a series of problems, but regardless of the starting point each trail leads to the same final result – ‘Then Don’t Worry’.
Sansom is obviously far more focussed on solutions than problems, and after 15 months as MD Down Under, has been pushing hard to put the German premium brand on a stable footing for short-term sales and long-term success.
“There was an opportunity to make some transformations. The opportunity is to strengthen the footprint we’ve got here,” Sansom says, looking back to the challenge he faced when he landed in Australia in 2017.
“We've got an opportunity to define and strengthen our identity as a brand. We’ve got a job going on in what is probably the most competitive market in the world.”
The Australian situation was nothing new for the transplanted Londoner, who lives in Sydney’s eastern suburbs with his wife Gina and their young son Henry.
Even his choice of home is a reflection of his management style and has nothing to do with beaches, despite their proximity.
“It’s close to the office. I’ve commuted a lot in my career and I wanted to be somewhere convenient to the office,” he says.
That career to date has seen Sansom go from 12 years in banking, to entering automotive after being headhunted by Jaguar in 2000.
"We’ve got a job going on in what is probably the most competitive market in the world.”
"I always had my eye on the Audi end of the building."
“I got a taste for automotive while I was there (Jaguar). I decided if I was going to be in the automotive business then the employer of choice for me had got to be the Volkswagen Group. So I went to work for them in about 2004. I always had my eye on the Audi end of the building.”
He soon achieved his target and then went on to become a star when he took Audi to the top in Britain as the company’s sales director.
“It wasn’t so much about going to number one premium brand in the UK, which was the first time in Audi’s history and in the fourth-biggest Audi market in the world at the time. It wasn’t just the numbers. The quality of the business was just terrific.
“We were number one for customer satisfaction, number one for dealer profitability, number one for dealer satisfaction.”
“That put me on the radar a little bit. They offered me a job as the managing director of Audi in South Africa.
“It’s one of those markets where they send a new managing director to see if they can cut it.
“If you can survive running a business down there, with all the social, political and economic issues, with a very weak currency . . .”
Sansom not only survived but prospered, and from South Africa he found himself appointed to the top job in Australia in May last year.
“Part of what brings me here to a managing director role isn’t just sales and marketing. I’ve got a good balance of experience. I’ve done pricing and product planning in the UK. And also after sales.
“I’ve got an awareness across the business. I’ve got a good balanced scorecard and I’ve seen that across three continents.”
“You could define the moment I arrived in Australia as quite a difficult time for the premium car market. In the last year it has started to contract for the first time in seven or eight years,” he says.
“The opportunity for Audi in this market is to define and strengthen our intensity. You have to have a really strong, customer-centric approach to the market.”
Things have also been tough through 2018, with an overall premium sales decline, although Sansom believes things have steadied at Audi and he is now able to look further than just the monthly sales numbers.
“The industry is obviously measured by sales numbers and I totally get that, and I want to grow sales numbers. And we will.
“What I took off the table was whether we were going to be number one or number two by a certain date. Audi is still getting a very, very healthy market share. We’re in a strong third position in the premium market here.”
Sansom is adamant that it’s more important to get things working right than going all-out to hit a showroom target.
“You have to have a people plan. There are loads of business plans I see that don’t have the people,” Sansom says.
"Sansom is adamant that it’s more important to get things working right than going all-out to hit a showroom target."
"We’re setting ourselves a long-term goal to be the best and most progressive premium brand in Australia.”
“It’s getting the very best people to represent your brand, defining the culture, how you want to be and what tone of voice and what behaviours you need to display.
“Sales is the output of that cocktail of things working really well. If you get all those things right, sales will inevitably come and market share will come.
“That’s essentially, in a nutshell, what we’ve been defining. And selling it to the key stakeholders.”
The pieces of the puzzle are now in place and Sansom is concentrating on what Audi needs to drive forward in Australia.
“Getting on the consideration list for purchase is a big focus for us. To do that in this market you’ve got to be really good, because the competition is terrific.
“You’ve got to be really sharp with your pricing and your positioning and the value you’re packing into the cars.
“Then the customer experience, driving brand loyalty, builds market share.”
Looking further into the future, even to the time when he has moved on from Australia, Sansom has solid ambitions and a structured plan.
“My philosophy is that you grow by having a long-term strategy that feeds a short-term necessity. I have a finite time here. My legacy is to future-proof the brand,” says Sansom.
“There will be a different brand story for Audi in Australia. One that’s not just talking about fabulous cars.
“It’s more of a philosophy. More of a movement. It’s more than just a product. There has to be a balance.
“We’ve got to have a long-term vision of what we’re shooting for. We’re setting ourselves a long-term goal to be the best and most progressive premium brand in Australia.”
Want to ensure you always receive the latest news and features from Audi? Subscribe now to the Audi Magazine newsletter.