Ralph Weyler, Member of the Board of Management of AUDI AG Marketing and Sales – Presentation at the Annual Press Conference 2007
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I will now come to the most important key financial figures.
2006 was an extremely successful year in terms of key financial data. We are again able to report new record-breaking figures for the year under review.
The Audi Group’s revenue rose by an impressive 17.1 percent in the 2006 financial year to the new record level of EUR 31.1 billion. This rate of increase was actually significantly higher than the growth rate for vehicle sales. Our huge success in increasing revenue can primarily be attributed to a further improvement in the model mix as a result of sales of higher-specification vehicles. But the other key indicators in the Income Statement are also impressive.
Gross profit reached EUR 3.8 billion in the past financial year, an increase of over 21.6 percent. Compared with revenue growth, this is another example of notably disproportionate growth.
The profit from operating activities rose by an even sharper 43.2 percent, to over EUR 2 billion. This vigorous growth was due on the one hand to the improved model and equipment mix that I mentioned earlier, and therefore to the stronger earnings situation that this brought on. On the other hand, it also reflects our successful measures to cut costs, boost productivity and optimise processes.
Taking the financial result into account, the profit before tax for 2006 was EUR 1.9 billion. After deduction of the income tax expense of EUR 603 million, there remains a profit after tax of more than EUR 1.3 billion. That is 63 percent up on the previous year, and therefore yet another achievement that we can be very proud of.
Allow me to sum up briefly our main performance indicators.
We boosted unit sales by amore than 9 percent. Meanwhile our revenue rose by 17 percent. We achieved growth of 49 percent in profit before tax. The disproportionately high rise in revenue and earnings provides us with an excellent basis, and is the best possible evidence of our long-term drive for qualitative growth.
Now for the key indicators in the cash flow statement.
Cash flow from operating activities rose by 36 percent to EUR 4.4 billion. The main determining factor behind this change was the sharp rise in the pre-tax profit. Our investing activities reached a high level in the past year. We invested predominantly in new products and new markets. The cash outflow for investing activities consequently reached EUR 2.4 billion. The net cash flow was again well into the black in 2006, as in previous years, reaching EUR 2 billion. In other words, we were able to finance our capital investments entirely from operating activities. The net liquidity, that is to say the balance of cash and cash equivalents and credit outstanding, exceeded the previous year’s already high figure by almost 69 percent, reaching a new record high of EUR 5.7 billion.
Finally, allow me to focus on our principal rate of return indicators.
The above-average earnings growth compared with the development in revenue is also reflected in the impressive rise in the rate of return before tax from 4.9 to 6.2 percent. We have therefore already reached our profitability goal for 2008. In reaching 14.2 percent, the return on investment clearly exceeded our target return on investment of 10 percent for the first time. This clearly mirrors our success. However, we will not be resting on our laurels. Our task for this year and for the years ahead is now to ensure that we can keep achieving this rate of return indicator that is so vital to us in the ever more competitive market.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
You can see from our record figures that our corporate strategy is working. Our strategy focuses on growth in unit sales, revenue and earnings.
The current January figures also reflect this the year-on-year rise of eight percent makes this the best January in the company’s history. And the month of February is heading in the right direction.
Our excellent accounts for 2006 once again demonstrate how to achieve profitable growth. We will maintain this successful course in the future. We aim for our unit sales to break through the one million barrier by the end of 2008. And we have even revised our sales target for 2015 upwards: until now we have been forecasting unit sales of 1.4 million vehicles. We are now convinced that we will actually sell 1.5 million vehicles in 2015.. and this number is of course easier to remember.
How do we propose to achieve these ambitious targets?
Attractive new models are the basis of our growth targets. With that in mind, we are constantly analysing our product portfolio: which new segments can we tap in order to make our brand even more desirable and fascinating? And with which products will we be able to meet precisely the requirements of our existing and new customers?
As you can see, there are still quite a few blank spaces here, some of which we will be filling over the next few years.
Many customers, for example, have been eagerly awaiting a new Audi coupé. As you will be aware, we have decided to return to that segment. The big moment is just a few days away:
We will be giving the Audi A5 Coupe its world debut at the Geneva Motor Show. We are genuinely doing everything technically and visually in a new and even better way on this car!
The A5 will be a completely new approach to the segment of sporty, elegant coupes. Because this car is one of a kind in its class!
The immense sportiness of this new Audi model is particularly evident in the S5 Coupe.
So the Geneva show will feature some pioneering new products from Audi.
While on the subject of announcing new Audi models, I might as well share the latest decision by Audi’s Board of Management with you: we intend to build a compact, small, sporty Audi. A decision on the new vehicle’s name has not yet been reached. But one thing is for sure: we will be building it. And I know that plenty of Audi enthusiasts will be looking forward to this car.
But back to the latest developments at Audi. Let me remind you of the last major motor show.
Audi enjoyed its customary high profile at the Detroit Motor Show in January. We unveiled an engine that sets new standards in the diesel sector, in the guise of the V12 TDI. 500 bhp output, 1,000 Nm torque and a displacement of six litres. This engine propels the Audi Q7 from 0 to 100 km/h in 5.5 seconds. Its fuel consumption of 11.9 litres per 100 km is very low, considering its immense power output.
This shows that we have the technological leadership and innovative ability to combine lower power outputs with even better fuel economy.
The launch of the Audi Q7 V12 TDI was a huge success partly thanks to the appearance of the pop singer Seal. I got to know Seal in person and soon realised that he is precisely the right ambassador for our brand. We are consequently planning several other activities this year for you to enjoy.
The launch of the V12 TDI is part of our broad-based diesel initiative in the US market.
We aim to illustrate to American customers the benefits of the diesel principle with the aid of a new exhaust emission control technology that drastically cuts emissions. We will be marketing this new generation of diesel engines jointly with Volkswagen and Mercedes under the label “Bluetec”.
The central element of Bluetec technology is a catalytic converter referred to by the abbreviation SCR (selective catalytic reduction). I am convinced that this will now prepare the diesel engine for a bright future in the United States especially considering how the emission limits are becoming increasingly tough. And at the same time it will provide precisely what the Americans are looking for quick acceleration and low fuel consumption.
But the environment is currently a highly topical issue in Europe, too. You will all have been following the debate surrounding CO2 limit values. Here are just a few examples of headlines that have appeared in the press. Audi has long been taking the matter of protecting the environment and climate very seriously. We pioneered hybrid technology 18 years ago with the “Audi duo” and, in the guise of the A2 1.2 TDI, launched a car that consumed just three litres of fuel per 100 kilometres. As pioneers of TDI, FSI and TFSI technology, we combine driving fun with low fuel consumption.
The latest development is that we have added ultra-efficient versions to our highest-volume models, the A3 and A4. The A3 with the 1.9 TDI e, for instance, consumes only 4.5 litres and achieves emissions lower than 120 g CO2 per kilometre. We will also be offering this engine for the Audi A4, in which it will consume 5.4 litres of fuel per 100 km.
I can assure you that I have my sights firmly set on sustainable mobility. We are looking to the future and recognising our responsibility.
According to the principle of “Progressive Performance”, which also served as the title for this year’s Annual Report, we will make internal engine modifications to keep reducing fuel consumption, and push ahead with the development of alternative fuels and drive principles.
I fundamentally welcome a European CO2 policy on climate protection.
What I reject, however, is the stigmatisation of premium manufacturers who offer high-performance models. We do so not least because that is what our customers want. Audi is a sporty brand and nothing will change that! Notwithstanding that, Audi will continue to play an increasingly important role in protecting the climate. This can be achieved in a wide variety of ways. Here again, Audi demonstrates creativity and innovation. For example by actively promoting research into car-to-car communication and innovative traffic guidance systems.
We have for instance launched the “Travolution” project, which is being subsidised by the Bavarian government and which we are implementing jointly with the City of Ingolstadt, the Technical University of Munich and GEVAS Software GmbH.
“Travolution” is a contraction of the two terms Traffic and Evolution. The aim of the project is to optimise traffic light phases and explore the scope for communication between traffic lights and vehicles. The object of the exercise is to improve the traffic flow by enabling driving at constant speeds, and to reduce the need for braking and acceleration. This reduces fuel consumption, pollutant emissions, noise and travelling time.
We perceive this area to offer considerable potential. And as an innovative car manufacturer, we are playing our part in tapping that potential. After all, the reduction of CO2 emissions should be achieved not only by vehicle-related measures but also by appropriate infrastructural measures.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me now give you details on further innovations. The field of electronics offers a wide range of new options, including in the area of safety. Audi is among the leaders for electronic driver assistance systems that promote active vehicle safety. For instance, we were very successful in launching the lane change assistant Audi side assist onto the market last year.
The assistance system Audi lane assist will be available from this summer. If the vehicle crosses the road markings without the driver activating the turn indicator, the steering wheel vibrates. The system thus warns the driver that the car has been inadvertently allowed to drift out of its lane. A video camera behind the windscreen acts as the sensing technology. An image processing function identifies the road markings and uses these to determine the vehicle’s position within its lane. Compared to the products of our competitors, Audi lane assist offers a host of advantages. For example, the warning moment and the intensity at which the steering wheel vibrates can each be set by the driver at three different stages via the MMI.
The all-LED headlights for the R8 are a world first in electronics that we will be bringing onto the market in the course of this year. The R8 will be the first vehicle in the world to offer this innovative lighting technology as standard. Not only will it give the headlights a futuristic look; it also offers the driver outstanding night-time vision.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Audi is a company with a global presence. We are becoming less and less dependent on the German and Western European market. And we will significantly increase our activities internationally in the coming years.
That is for instance what we will be doing in India a market where I believe there is particular growth potential for Audi. We moreover made preparations for this last year. This year, we will be adding seven further dealerships to the existing three. And we will be working with a sales company to steer and develop the market. This will then give us the basis for embarking on local assembly operations in the autumn. We will be assembling parts sets manufactured in Germany at a plant in Aurangabad, in West India. This assembly plant will enable us to access the market by reducing import duties. Audi will be present at the right place and time to become the leading premium brand in India.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
With our premium strategy we are well on the way to achieving our growth targets.
We have likewise already scooped a whole series of awards in the first two months of this year.
Audi for instance again achieved an outstanding result in Europe’s most important reader poll. The readers of “auto, motor und sport” voted Audi the winner in an impressive three categories: The A3, A6 and Q7 were all awarded the distinction of “Best Cars of 2007” in their respective classes. This was the first time that the Audi Q7 was in the running, and it overcame some stiff competition. The A6’s victory comes as no surprise, because it has been the market leader in its class in Germany for the past two years. And in the compact class, the A3 came out on top for the third time in succession.
The new TT Coupe has clinched a particularly impressive number of awards. It was voted Germany’s most popular car by the readers of ADAC’s “Motorwelt” magazine. 220,000 readers took part in the vote. Almost 300,000 readers of the magazine Auto Bild voted in the poll “AUTO 1”, likewise declaring the Audi TT to be Germany’s dream car. The British magazine “WHAT CAR?” also makes annual awards. In that poll, the TT Coupé was voted “Car of the Year” in the “Best Coupé” section.
We are of course also hoping for prizes, distinctions and triumphs in the forthcoming motor racing season. The splendid victory of the world’s first diesel-powered racing car, the Audi R10 TDI, in last year’s Le Mans 24 Hours made motor racing history. And we will be defending our title this year.
We will keep up our successful involvement in the American Le Mans Series to flank the forthcoming drive to promote diesel engines in the USA. In the 2007 season, the Audi Sport North America team will for the first time be entering two Audi R10 TDI cars in every race.
With regard to the DTM, we will be doing everything in our power to clinch overall victory this year. Here you see a computer animation of the future Audi DTM racing car. I am looking forward to some exciting races! The “serious business” begins on April 22.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me to summarise:
Thank you very much for listening.