You’re driving down the freeway on a cloudy day when German sheetmetal catches your eye. New Audi, by the looks of it. Well, it could be new. Yeah, that’s a nice A6 up there. Or is it an A4? Hold on a second, it wasn’t as far away as you thought â€” that’s the new A3, which borrowed its its older siblings’ clothes.
Suffice it to say, and Ingolstadt isn’t alone in this, that design DNA runs very deep in the Audi family. To see an Audi is to recognize an Audi, but not necessarily to discern what particular Audi you’re seeing. Well, the company wants to change that.
As it begins to feel more comfortable in its own skin, Audi is moving on from a strategy crafted to boost brand recognition. Future models will be more distinctive and less easily mistaken for other models in the lineup, the company’s boss says.
Speaking to Britain’s Autocar, CEO Rupert Stadler explained, “This [repetition] design process was used to make Audis more recognisable in newer and emerging markets. Now we are well known in major markets like China, we can begin to change this philosophy and give each car its own look.”
The first departure from the brand’s past philosophy is the 2018 Audi Q2, a subcompact crossover built on Volkswagen’s MQB platform that doesn’t simply take the Q3/Q5 look and shrink it. A little more upright and angular than other models, the Q2 doesn’t exactly break the styling mold, but it does bend it. Alas, the Q2 is not bound for U.S. shores.
Audi design chief Marc Lichte, whose job it is to literally sculpt the brand’s future, agrees with Stadler.
â€œWe recognise that there is a place for more differentiation now,” he said. “Since our cars are in production for a minimum of six years, in todayâ€™s world I think each model should have its own design to be attractive for this long time.â€�
In the coming years, compact, electrified powertrains should help designers go further afield in terms of shape. With that type of vehicle, “proportions can change,” Lichte said.
Meanwhile, Lichte has his eye on BMW’s upcoming 8 Series ultra-lux coupe. Not wanting Audi to be the only member of the Big Luxurious German Three without a car in this class, the design head would like to build a competitor. He admits, thought, that anticipated demand doesn’t make the idea a top concern. Not when there’s new higher-volume vehicles in the pipeline to worry about.
“I love the shape of a two-door coupeÌ�, but it is also true that the [sales] volumes [for them] are much lower than for four-doors,” he told Autocar. “In the future, who knows? We have many ideas in this direction.”
[Images: Audi AG]