InterviewJun 1st, 2023

CXAUTO2023 Speaker Spotlight: Kirk Preiser


Director of Retail Buying Experience, Audi of America

“I found a unique piece of the automotive industry that resonates for me.”

When people ask me how I got into automotive, I laugh because it wasn’t something I had planned. In college, I wrote a research paper on Lee Lacocca and his turnaround of Chrysler, but I had no idea at the time that I’d end up in automotive. It was luck. When I think of all the companies that came to Purdue to recruit business students, I realize I fell into it, and I am so glad I did.

Something exciting is always happening in the automotive industry, and almost everyone has passionate personal stories about a vehicle. Once people find out I work for Audi, I become the life of the party. All of a sudden, everyone has a story they want to share about a vehicle or a question they want to ask me. I enjoy driving a well-engineered vehicle, but I’m not what some would call a Gear Head; I don’t work on cars on the weekends and don’t have a collection of them at home. I’m sure I could change my oil if I needed to, but what I love is the industry more than the actual cars themselves. Automotive touches everyone, and it’s impossible to be bored in this industry.

There are always opportunities for improvement and new mountains to climb. What truly resonates with me is the retail purchase experience and connecting customers with our amazing brand. It makes me sad and embarrassed that people hate the experience of buying a vehicle because it really shouldn’t be that way. It’s the second-largest purchase in most people’s lives, and it should be something to enjoy, not dread. 

Creating lifelong fans of our brand is my daily goal, and it all starts with the purchase experience. I am deeply passionate about this aspect of the business and have dedicated my life to fixing it.

“I think one thing that differentiated me early in my career was the ability to pick things up quickly without necessarily having a ton of experience.”

Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate to touch almost every aspect of the automotive industry. Not only did I work on the assembly line building cars one summer in college, but I’ve often moved between very diverse job roles. Most of the time, my new role had nothing to do with the one I was leaving. This helped me learn quickly and adapt to new challenges. Each position grew my industry knowledge, but they didn’t always build on each other. The first six months to a year of the transition was always tough. However, experiencing so many different aspects of the industry now gives me valuable insights into various stakeholders’ perspectives and challenges.

The projects we work on now have stakeholders from all other areas of the business, so to be successful, we have to manage everyone’s wants, needs, and expectations. We talk about a “secret sauce.” It may be that truly just understanding everyone else’s perspectives is important in bringing everyone together to work towards a common goal: customer satisfaction.

When I consider my personal experience with other brands, I ask, why does it have to be so challenging in the automotive industry? We have got to fix this.

As the Director of Retail Buying Experience at Audi of America, our department’s responsibility is to manage the entire purchase experience from the moment a customer touches the Audi of America or a Dealer’s website through engagement with the dealer to finalize the sale and ending with what we hope is perfect delivery.

My diverse experience has been crucial for understanding the different components that make up the penultimate purchase experience. It takes a combination of people, processes, and technology all working together to get it right. As a result, we prioritize finding win-win solutions among all stakeholders. Acknowledging their KPIs, fears, and objectives, we work together to reach a common ground and progress toward achieving our shared goal; everything is centered around the customer.

One key lesson I’ve learned since taking on this role is the importance of collaboration. I’ve always collaborated with dealers, but now it’s crucial to work closely with multiple departments and organizations within the Volkswagen Group of America. This monumental change requires teamwork across Audi Financial Services, Audi Digital, Audi Sales Operations, Audi Marketing, PR, and more.

The challenge lies in aligning everyone towards a common goal: improving the customer purchase experience. We’ve never worked as closely together as we do now, so it’s essential to maintain regular collaboration and update meetings to keep everyone on track. As someone who has spent most of my career working with dealers, this has been the biggest challenge for me, but I’m confident in the organizational structure and partnerships we’ve built to succeed on this journey.

It has to be a systematic partnership from the very beginning, which is the part that takes a lot of time, creativity, and the effective management of human relationships.

“We will never survive unless we can attract and retain young talent.”

The automotive industry, especially on the retail side, struggles to attract and retain Gen Z and Millennial employees. The hospitality industry is facing a similar awakening in hiring these generations. They look at the working hours, the commission-based pay, no holidays, no retirement, no work-from-home opportunities, and avoid the industry like the plaque.

Customer satisfaction starts with employee satisfaction, so A significant part of my work involves improving the experience for consumers and our employees. 

These two things go hand in hand. If we can improve the use of technology, eliminate old-school processes, and change employee working conditions, we can attract fresh talent into the industry and not only improve our customer experience but remain a viable career opportunity for future generations.

The key to our success at Audi is creating a partnership with our dealers from the very beginning. We must strike a balance between designing what we want the ultimate Audi retail consumer experience to be, understanding what our dealers want, and allowing them to retain their individuality and personality. My job is to find ways to improve nationwide consistency for the brand and not make dealers feel we are trying to cut them out of the business. Our dealers are an essential aspect of our success, and we need to work together with them.

Implementing change is always challenging. However, I believe figuring out ways to partner with our franchises and navigate the complexities of the dealership retail experience is essential to achieving mobilization.

Building trust with our dealers is essential. I’m proud of the progress we’re making, and I’m excited about the innovative programs we’re introducing over the next few years, which I believe are unparalleled in the industry. One of the things that we do differently is adopting an exceptional approach when it comes to dealer support. 

We have our own national team of Modern Retail Consultants working side by side with our dealers; we’re doing something unique in the industry. We haven’t turned the responsibility over to a vendor. My core team has over 60 years of Retail Automotive experience, so we train each consultant to have the skills necessary to assist dealers in improving their processes, not just review a bunch of KPIs with them monthly. It’s not book knowledge. Its first-hand understanding of CRMs, Digital Retail Tools, F&I menu systems, and all the steps it takes to complete a vehicle sale. Plus, we have studied all customer satisfaction data and isolated the parts of the buying experience that significantly impact customer satisfaction and loyalty.

“The biggest changes over the last couple of years that we’ve seen in the marketplace is the advancement of technology to assist with online purchase capability.”

Since I’ve taken the position of Director of Retail Buying Experience at Audi, I’ve observed a significant shift in the market. The most notable change is the advancement of technology that enables online vehicle purchasing. Previously, you could only complete a sale inside a dealership, but now, new technology allows consumers to do more and more from their homes. This shift has accelerated over the last two years due to increased investment in various solutions. Every day we’re getting closer to connecting all the dots and allowing customers to truly purchase a vehicle online, just like they would from Amazon. However, At Audi, we’re working on providing this flexibility so consumers can purchase in any form or fashion they want. We are not trying to force consumers down a particular purchase path. Instead, we are designing our systems and processes to cater to those who want a fully online experience, those who prefer the traditional in-person approach, or those that want some combination of the two.

At CXAUTO2023, I’ll discuss the changes happening in the automotive industry and Audi’s unique approach to addressing them. We’re focused on collaborating with our dealers. We aim to find a solution that benefits our dealers, customers, and Audi. The industry is evolving, and we must keep up with traditional competitors and new OEM Direct competitors like Tesla, Rivian, and Lucid. These companies offer a purchase experience that differs significantly from traditional OEMs and dealerships. Our challenge is to adapt the best aspects of their approach and integrate them into our business model while maintaining the personalization of a local dealership.

By offering the best vehicles, an excellent purchase experience, and personalized local service, we aim to give customers the best of both worlds and ultimately emerge as winners in the industry.

Catch Kirk Preiser live at CXAUTO2023 in Marina Del Rey, The Ritz-Carlton, California.

June 20th - 21st 2023.

Head over to for more information and to understand why CXAUTO2023 is one of the most exclusive and sought-after events in the automotive industry. 

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