Monday, February 14, 2011

Audi Design Chief Discusses New Models


The head of Audi Group Design, Wolfgang Egger, has targeted a wave of new models as the company responds to emerging markets and brand proliferation.

Egger differentiated between "the continuous family line of the A4, A6 and A8," and niche models, such as the R8, A7 and E-tron that "sharpen the emotion of the brand."

Egger admitted that the A2 — a tall, practical but sporty alternative that would sit between the A1 and A3 — had been designed, but that the Volkswagen Group lacked an appropriate platform for the car. Instead, Audi would continue to develop the A1, appealing to premium downsizers and urbanites. The current three-door model, will be joined by a five-door hatchback, a 180-horsepower S1 and a cabriolet. A Quattro four-wheel-drive version of the car is already scheduled to debut at the 2011 Geneva Auto Show in March.

Moving upmarket, Egger reckoned there was room for a sport crossover rival to the BMW X6. "It has been a big success in China, where it's become a second car driven by women. There, it's a female sports car." According to Egger, the forthcoming Audi Q3 will be a step in this direction, but the automaker could still go further to compete with BMW.

The designer also admitted that the growth of the Chinese market — Audi sold almost 228,000 cars there in 2010 — is starting to influence styling decisions. "There is a design trade-off between Europe, China and the U.S. The chrome grille on the A8 was a response to Chinese demands for a car that makes a statement." However, he ruled out producing subtly different models for different markets. "An Audi is an Audi," he said.

More niche models are also likely to follow. Egger said the Quattro concept shown for the first time at the 2010 Paris Auto Show last year "wasn't dead," nor had it "been confirmed for production. These cars help the A6 because they bring new emotion and character to the brand." This character will also continue to be carried by the electric cars of the future. "The relationship between a car and a person is very complex," he concluded. "A car must always have a 'face' made up of a grille and lights."

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