Audi of America
Audi has brought its interlocking four rings to the five-ring circus of the 2012 London Olympics, inaugurating a store near Piccadilly Circus. The space, called Audi City, presents the company’s full line of models in life-size, digital form.
Peter Schwarzenbauer, the company’s head of sales, said at the store opening on Monday that the London outpost would be the first of 20 spaces planned for cities around the world by 2015. “People are placing greater emphasis than ever before on a direct and personal bond of trust with their vehicle brand, especially in respect of the increasing variety of products and available information,” he said.
To commemorate the opening, Audi commissioned the multimedia artist Chris Cunningham to present a work, “Jaqapparatus 1,” combining robotics, music and large machines with lasers that communicate and dance.
The store is not so much a showroom as it is a showcase. It builds on the practice, increasingly common among lifestyle brands, including automakers, of immersion spaces that do not function as retail spaces. One example in the United States is the Audi Forum on Park Avenue in Midtown. Andrew Lipman, a spokesman for Audi, wrote in an e-mail there were no confirmed plans for a digital store in New York.
The London space incorporates giant digital screens, called powerwalls by the automaker, much like those found in carmakers’ advanced-design studios. Ford, incidentally, just completed a $14.5 million renovation of its European studios in Germany to incorporate these walls for conferencing with other studios around the world.
Visitors to Audi City first use tables with touch screens to select model, engine, color and other specifications for a vehicle that is then displayed on the wall. The result can be loaded onto a memory stick and slipped into the customer’s pocket to take to a dealer.
Less appealing perhaps is a digital guide, or avatar, involved in the selection process.
The configurator is programmed with high-fidelity reproductions of the sound of a door shutting or a turbocharged engine spooling up.
“We wanted to create a space that had no hierarchy, with no sales desks and with everyone on an eye-to-eye level,” Floris Dreesman, the Audi corporate architect in charge of the project, said in an interview with Wallpaper magazine. Audi City is also a front for acquainting potential customers with the automaker’s E-tron electric and hybrid-electric vehicles, some of which are scheduled to go on sale late this year.
By PHIL PATTON