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Former Audi exec looks to rev up Redflag badge

2012-07-23 16:42

By Gong Zhengzheng (China Daily)

Former Audi exec looks to rev up Redflag badge

The Redflag H7 is expected to go on sale in October starting with government fleets. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Revival of iconic early sedan underway at First Auto Works

In a strong attempt to revive the iconic Redflag badge, FAW Group Corp last week designated a top Audi executive in China as sales chief of its own-brand unit.

Zhang Xiaojun, previously executive deputy general manager of the Audi sales division at FAW's joint venture with Volkswagen Group, now takes the helm of sales and marketing of the Shenzhen-listed FAW Car Co Ltd.

Ge Shuwen, former sales director of FAW Car Co Ltd, will take Zhang's post at Audi.

Analysts said the 51-year-old Zhang has high expectations to use his successful Audi expertise to rev up the Redflag brand, which was born in 1958 and used by top Chinese leaders including Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.

Production of Redflag sedans was suspended in 1981 due to sluggish sales, high costs and low fuel efficiency. In the 1990s, several new models based on technologies from Audi and Chrysler were launched but sales remained lackluster.

On July 15, an all-new Redflag H7 large sedan rolled off the assembly line at FAW's headquarters in the northeastern city of Changchun.

The model is 5,095 mm long, 1,875 mm wide and 1,485 mm high. It has a wheelbase of 2,970 mm and offers three engine options - a 3.0 liter six-cylinder, 2.5 liter six-cylinder and turbocharged 2.0 liter .

Sources from FAW said the H7 was created to meet the standards and market positioning of the Audi A6.

The H7 is expected to go on sale in October with the first batch to supply fleets for ministerial and provincial officials.

It will be available to private buyers next year.

The high-level government fleet has been dominated by the Audi A6 for more than a decade. The model is produced at the joint venture FAW Volkswagen, which also builds the Audi A4 sedan and Q5 SUV as well as a slew of Volkswagen models.

Audi has had legendary success in the Chinese market over the past two decades, especially during Zhang's tenure at the brand since 2006.

Audi's China sales surpassed 310,000 units last year to outstrip Germany as the carmaker's biggest single market in the world.

While Audi's early local production, affluent lineup and aggressive brand-building efforts were all crucial to its success in China, another important factor is the many individual customers who follow the lead of government officials and buy Audi cars.

FAW plans to invest 10.5 billion yuan in R&D on the Redflag brand, providing new products such as SUVs and limousines.