Q&A: Audi SA’s Tarryn Knight
Product and marketing head talks about destiny, electric plans, and how nothing worth having comes easy
Tarryn Knight was appointed Audi SA’s product and marketing manager in February 2020, just before lockdown. Born and raised in Benoni, she’s spent 15 years with the Volkswagen Group and it was a casual job at a car show that set the wheels rolling on her automotive journey.
How did you get involved in the motor industry, and more specifically with Audi? Did you have car posters on your bedroom walls growing up?
I was a brand ambassador for the newly-introduced Touareg on the Volkswagen stand at the 2002 Auto Africa show and it inspired me. After I’d completed my BCom degree in communications management, and worked in London for two years, I returned to SA and sent my CV to Volkswagen SA. They happened to be recruiting for a brand manager and I got the job. I guess it was destiny.
That was in 2006. Since then I’ve moved through the Volkswagen ranks in marketing and communications, and was appointed Audi’s product and marketing manager in 2020.
I wouldn’t exactly call myself a petrolhead and I didn’t have car posters on my wall, but I’ve always been fascinated by the mechanical and engineering side of cars, and also their design.
Briefly, what does your job entail, and what is the most enjoyable part?
My job’s very diverse. On the product side I manage the team that plans which cars come to SA, and their specifications and pricing.
On the marketing front it’s advertising, events and public relations. I deal a lot with Audi headquarters in Ingolstadt, Germany, where we work to position the brand in a way that appeals to the local market.
What I like most about the job is that it allows me to be very creative, and every week brings very interesting challenges.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Starting in the new position right before lockdown was challenging, and having to deal with a new team remotely before we met in person.
Is the motor industry a bit of a closed boys’ club?
The industry is much more open now and it’s less unusual to see women in top positions.
But I don’t want to particularly stand out as a woman in the motor industry; I just want to be somebody who is good at what they do.
What are some of the most interesting innovations happening in the motor industry?
I’m very excited about the new era of electrified mobility, and we have an announcement on Aug. 5 in this regard. To be in this industry at this time is such an amazing opportunity. As I said earlier, I’m fascinated about the engineering side of cars. I think I should have been an engineer.
What car do you drive, and what is your favourite Audi?
My favourite is the RS6 Avant, as I do like good performance. But I don’t want a car that’s more than what I need. I love a simple lifestyle and have no children, so my own car until now has been an A1, and I’m upgrading to a Q2. My husband is getting the A1.
What is your favourite non-Audi?
An Aston Martin DBS. There’s something about the design I love. I also love Porsche as a brand.
Is the motor industry a good place for young women to pursue a career, and what advice would you give them to get started?
I think it’s a good industry for women. Some women struggle with knowing their value and their power. I believe your uniqueness is the value you bring, not your gender.
Also, work hard and be patient as nothing worth having comes easy. It’s really important to put in the effort. So much of society feels it’s about quick and easy.
What do you do when you’re not selling Audis?
My background is in dance, including pole fitness, and I used to perform in showcases. But my last birthday was a milestone and I decided to learn golf as something new.
If money’s no object, what is on top of your bucket list?
I love travelling, and I’d go on a world tour, probably starting with Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, then to Norway to see the northern lights, and hot air ballooning in the Masai Mara.
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