Audi has pledged to focus its investments on electric and digital car innovations in 2016, after announcing operating profits of £3.7bn during a record-breaking year in 2015.
During the announcement, made at Audi’s headquarters in Ingolstadt, Audi revealed that it sold more cars in a year than ever before, while also recognising that 2015 had been a year of “major challenges” - a reference to the VW emissions scandal, which the company had been forced to admit it knew about since May 2014 overnight.
Audi’s turnover in 2015 was £44.7bn, meaning an operating profit of 8.3% - although ‘special items’ reduce the operating profit from £3.9bn and the operating return down from 8.8%. The ‘special items’ include fixing six-cylinder diesel engines affected by the emissions scandal, plus associated “legal risks and sales activities”. The cost of any four-cylinder diesel engine fixes will be covered by the VW Group, which are effectively bought under contract by Audi under the firm's accounting practices.
“We regret what happened. We will ensure full transparency and assure you we will put things right,” said Audi CEO Rupert Stadler. He also pledged to “ensure that honesty has the utmost priority as a business principle”.
Audi sold 1,803,246 cars - up 3.6% year on-year. BMW has already announced annual growth in 2015 of 5.2%, while Mercedes grew 15%, although Audi remains the dominant premium car maker in Europe and China.
In the US, where Audi sales have been traditionally weak, and diesel-gate hit hardest, sales were over 200,000 cars for the first time - a rise of 11%, double the number of sales from 2011. Stadler revealed that Audi planned to invest around £700m to grow US sales by 2020, saying the company “looked to the future with full confidence".
The renewed focus on electric and digital technology will result in the creation of 1200 new jobs in Germany, and the investment of more than £2.3bn, although it is not clear that all of this will be spent in this area. The jobs are described as being in “strategic areas for the future”, but no details of how the investment will manifest itself were given.
Audi also warned that its high level of investment in new products and manufacturing facilities “will at first affect earnings negatively” in 2016. However, it said it expected a similar 8-10% operating return on sales in 2016.
Audi employees in Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm are rewarded with a bonus according to profits. The average payout for 2015 will be £4178, compared to £5042 in 2014. That is the third year in a row the bonus has been reduced, but Audi stressed that this is because of its huge growth in employees.
Lamborghini sold more than 3000 cars for the first time, a rise of 28% year-on-year. The bulk of sales were for the Huracan, with more than 2200 being delivered to customers. Ducati also falls under Audi’s leadership, with the motorbike brand selling 50,000 bikes for the first time - a rise of more than 10,000 sales on 2014.