Leading an organization is a huge responsibility on any given day but shouldering the responsibility in the middle of a pandemic? That’s something else, entirely. For Vito Paladino, guiding one of the biggest luxury automotive brands through a turbulent business landscape when he assumed the mantle of President at Audi Canada in the fall of 2020 proved to be a masterclass in agility, vision, and resilience.
What makes a great luxury brand experience? In general, and specific to your industry?
Audi’s ambition is to shape the future of premium mobility. This journey and the milestones along the way will create fascinating experiences for our fans and customers. This includes providing a premium Audi product experience, the personal premium touch of our retail partners as well as utilizing digitalization to maximize customer convenience.
What excites you most about the future of the automotive industry?
The Audi brand has four key values: sustainability, digitalization, performance, and design. Our future direction and focus have to incorporate these principles as we transform towards e-mobility. The latest concept we showed, the Audi grandsphere, reveals how we envision the future of premium mobility. In this concept, you can see our interpretation of a connected, sustainable, electric, and autonomous car. This is our future.
The automotive industry has come under a lot of scrutinies when it comes to its environmental impact. What efforts are being made by Audi Canada to be a leader on this matter?
In 2021, the electric offensive gained further momentum at Audi. For the first time, more than half of all models launched in one year are electric. This more than doubled our all-electric offering. By 2026, we will only release models into the market that are electric. We will also phase out the production of internal combustion engines by 2033. Our commitment to future technologies is around €17 billion of our total €35 billion investment up to 2025.
What is Audi Canada doing that no other company is doing?
It has always been our choice to be drivers of change. The Audi motto “Vorsprung Durch Technik” (progress through technology) is fifty years old. Even half a century after its first use, this sense of purpose of “living progress” has not lost its focus and importance to us. And each year, there are countless examples that continue to build on this history. Truly a clear example of the company’s future-oriented approach.
What are some of the major hurdles when it comes to convincing customers to switch over to electric vehicles? How are you addressing them?
An important step in the transformation is to offer consultation on electrified mobility and awareness of the various choices available within our Audi product portfolio. This includes a comfortable and premium consultation experience (whether virtual, digital, or within the dealership) for our customers to understand what an electrified mobility lifestyle would look and feel like, and how this compares to an internal-combustion engine vehicle.
Outside of electric vehicles, what are some other ways that Audi has been addressing its environmental impact and the climate crisis?
The central goal to achieving this is to make all of our production sites carbon neutral by 2025. We have already achieved this at our Audi Hungaria and Audi Brussels facilities. We are looking at the entire supply change, everything from the sourcing to the recycling at the end of a car’s life. We are also in the process of reevaluating our Canadian operations in an effort to update our national sustainability plans.
What do you think defines a great leader? Both as someone who is leading an organization and as a brand leading its category?
A clear and consistent strategy is the foundation for successfully building a common focus and purpose within a team and brand. Equally important is inspiring your team to reach its full potential while remaining dedicated to investing the time to prepare your organization’s future-readiness. For us at Audi that is ‘Vorsprung’. This entrepreneurial spirit and forward-looking orientation of the brand in everything that we do.
You are the first Canadian to hold your position. What are you bringing to your role that no one else has brought before? What is your point of view?
I am a proud Canadian and Canadians understand the importance of balance. There are times you need to dig deep to find perseverance and push for performance, moments you need to remind yourself to remain open-minded, as your learning never stops, and finally, always remembering that while facts and figures are important, you succeed through people.
What are some of the short- and long-term challenges that you identified as you stepped into your role?
I became President of Audi Canada early in the pandemic. Beyond recalibrating our business to the changing economy because of COVID-19, we had to accelerate our omnichannel approach to the premium retail experience. This included implementing COVID protocols to keep our customers and employees safe, using digitization to improve customer convenience while continuing personalized premium experiences at the right moments. I am very proud of the Audi Canada team and dealer partners on how we have managed the pandemic challenges while pushing to our future ambitions.
What is the biggest opportunity for growth and innovation that you have in front of you in your role?
Balancing premium personal retail experiences with digitalization is at the forefront. However, from a “way of working” perspective, we are setting a bold and ambitious course forward, using challenges to grow our perspective and being entrepreneurial to seize new opportunities – in this way, leading with passion and ambition become key elements of business success.
What are some initiatives unique to the Canadian market that you are working on?
We are assessing our local CO2 footprint and looking at logistics, our facilities, and our operations to build a stronger national sustainability plan. We are looking at everything. It simply is not good enough to be just committed to the technology and becoming an electrified automotive company. We need to live this progress and incorporate sustainability into everything we do.
What is the best advice that you have ever been given?
It was something my father told me, a simple message: be passionate about whatever you do and push to be the best.
How do you define success? What does it mean to you?
Success to me is stretching to reach your full potential, being proud of how you succeeded and winning as one team.