– Audi of America has stepped up efforts to highlight its U.S commercial fleet sales, recently holding its first corporate sales event here. The drive event in the New Jersey-New York area drew positive responses from participating fleet managers, many of whom professed unfamiliarity with Audi as a fleet provider. Noting that Audi may be “the best-kept secret” in the fleet import-badged segment, Ross Friedmann, Audi of America commercial account manager, told event attendees the automaker “is here to be taken seriously in the commercial fleet market.”North American Corporate Sales Manager Craig Cheatle also pointed out that Audi offers a 300-plus-dealer network and traditional fleet services, including national fleet incentives and volume purchase programs, direct factor ordering with major leasing companies, and courtesy delivery. The Audi four-year, 50,000-mile warranty includes a scheduled maintenance program, Audi Care, with volume purchases. “When total lifecycle costs are considered,” said Cheatle, “Audi’s strong residuals offset initial cap costs.”Featuring the Audi A6 mid-size luxury sedan, the event began with a presentation at newly opened “Audi Forum,” a vehicle showroom and special event venue on Park Avenue in Manhattan. Participants were then transported via helicopter to a New Jersey drive course. The course showcased the A6’s handling and maneuverability, including the benefits of its standard Electronic Stabilization Program (ESP). Riding with an instructor, attending fleet managers drove a timed course with ESP turned off, the repeated the course with activated ESP. Following the event, attendees took three-month possession of A6 models for demonstration driving trials. Participant response has been enthusiastic. The hands-on drive experience “opens up your eyes to Audi,” said Susan Freeman, fleet manager for Kos Pharmaceuticals in Cranbury, N.J. “I got a good feel for the handing and maneuverability. It handled great. I would look at the Audi for an executive vehicle. It was impressive to say the least.”“Putting the Audis in the hands of fleet managers was a great idea. Driving the A6 has been a great learning experience about Audi vehicles,” said Debbie Ricciardelli, manager of fleet and sample accountability for Esprit Pharma, headquartered in East Brunswick, N.J. “We’ve never had Audi in the fleet, but will likely consider them for executives.”Frank Murdocco, fleet manager for Coty, Inc., also will now consider adding Audi to the fragrance company’s fleet. “Audi wasn’t a vehicle I had every considered; no one had ever asked for it,” he said. “Looking at the residual values and with maintenance services included, it’s a good sell. Plus, we are very high on safety, and Audi’s recent safety ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety were at the top.” At a recent Audi of America drive event, participants were transported by helicopter from Manhattan to a vehicle course in New Jersey. Among the drive attendees were (l-r) Bob Brown, Bobit Business Media; Gino Medico, Audi; and James Rallo, PHH Arval.