Audi offloads centres in capital to Belfast group Charles Hurst
LESS than three months after promising a €1.4m investment in the Irish market, Audi has offloaded its Dublin-based Audi Centres for about €20m.
Audi yesterday confirmed that both the Audi Centre showroom in Ballsbridge and the Sandyford Audi Centre aftercare operation had been sold to Belfast retail group Charles Hurst.
The deal will see Charles Hurst take over the existing sites from September 1, with both continuing to trade under the Audi Centre name.
"We will be investing significantly in the coming months," Charles Hurst chairman Ken Surgenor said yesterday, describing the deal as a "highly strategic acquisition".
Established in Belfast almost 100 years ago, Charles Hurst has been trading in Dublin since 1927, selling a host of luxury brands including Ferrari, Maserati, Bentley and Aston Martin.
The sale of the Audi Centre business comes just six months after the Ballsbridge site was opened in February, and less than three months after Sandyford was launched in June.
The Ballsbridge site was to showcase Audi's offerings, and has so far sold 160 new cars and 130 second-hand ones. Backed by an investment of €1.4m, the Sandyford centre was hailed as testament to Audi's commitment to customer service.
Audi Ireland managing director Fintan Knight yesterday said he was "very pleased" to have attracted a company of Charles Hurst's "calibre" to take over the Audi Centres.
Audi hopes to be Ireland's "number one prestige car brand" by 2015, with Charles Hurst's selling area expected to contribute about 35pc of Audi's national sales.
The deal comes as Ireland's motoring industry struggles to recover from brutal car sales figures in 2008 and 2009, as the recession devastated demand.
"We have tremendous faith in the Audi brand and the Irish economy as a medium to long-term investment," said Andy Bruce, managing director of Charles Hurst's parent company Lookers PLC.
Charles Hurst's entry to the Audi Ireland family comes after the German cart giant parted ways with Motor Distributors Limited in late 2008 and began handling its own distribution.
Earlier this year, Audi said it was planning to reduce its Irish sales and service outlets from 34 to 14 over the next three years.