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Audi's new boss sees chance to supercharge the brand
MARKUS Schuster may be German, but he's probably seen more of South-east Asia than you. "I think it was 15 years ago that I came over here for the first time," the new managing director of Audi Singapore tells The Business Times.
He professes fondness for the region and has travelled to Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.
"I love this concentration of different cultures and also the way people live. The way people work here is very interesting for me," he says. "It's always been a dream to come to South-east Asia to work."
That dream became a reality four months ago when he arrived to head up Audi Singapore, the German luxury car maker's importer here but also its regional office for six other Asia-Pacific countries.
Settling in involved getting to grips with the countless abbreviations that people use here ("You get like thousands of three-letter words that in the beginning are hard to grasp," he says) and having done that, Mr Schuster has a to-do list to work on.
Apart from strengthening the Audi brand in Singapore, Mr Schuster says he is looking forward to seeing it enter the electric age here.
"At the moment, in the whole automotive industry, we're in a huge transformation process and I would really like to kickstart that transformation process for Audi in Singapore," he says. "With the introduction of the e-tron, our first battery electric vehicle that's coming out soon, I think that is a great chance to basically supercharge the brand Audi, and also take the position as really the most advanced and most progressive brand."
Audi will likely launch the e-tron here in January, and while the high-tech electric crossover will be the brand's exciting new face, Mr Schuster himself intends to be its ears. Mingling with customers and collecting their views is something he is making a priority.
"What I've found here in Singapore is a very exceptional relationship between us as an importer, the dealer Premium Automobiles and our customers. "It's a very personal relationship."
Premium organises around 50 events a year for customers as part of its myAudi World loyalty programme. Mr Schuster says he enjoys attending them so he can mingle with the brand's fans, or even its detractors.
"Singaporeans are very straightforward. They will give you very direct feedback and they will tell you if there's something that they love about the car, but they will also tell you if there's something that is not perfect," he says, adding that the criticism is usually constructive.
"I have lots of customers who connect with me on LinkedIn and then write to me because either they have problems that they need support with, or they have suggestions that they just want to drop," he says. "That's great."
Having seen more of this region than most, the new boss of Audi now wants to hear more.