Audi have given us a taste of what the showroom of the future will look like with the opening of their Audi City London concept store near Picadilly Circus.
The new space saving initiative will allow Audi to maintain a presence in the heart of the biggest cities in the world with another 20 stores planned for opening between now and 2015. The new format utilises virtual technology to allow customers to interact with custom made cars on screen in an orgy of touch-screen interaction, allowing you to select a car model, engine, finish and trim and see it driving before you contemplate your purchase. Once selected the customised car can be heard as well as seen as Audi have digitised the audio for every possible permutation.
Taking a lead from Apple and how they implanted their ubiquitous high-concept showrooms in every city of the world, Audi stress also the importance of the customer service factor in the store. This is about selling cars as much as employing high-tech gimmickry for marketing purposes. Audi are looking to take their sales platform form the bland industrial zones of the city’s outskirts into the centre of the city.
With over 50% of the world’s population living in urban areas this project is aimed at creating space in the city and bridging the gap between the virtual and the real using the ethos of ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’. The showroom also features an art space that hosts a live art installation by world-renowned video artist Chris Cunningham. The exhibition runs for five days with exclusive public performances from 19th – 20th July.
Cunningham, who has directed videos for Madonna, Aphex Twin and Björk in the past has since moved form video director-for-hire to independent video artist but his high technology robot obsessed aesthetic has remained the same. For Audi City he has created an installation that involves two robots, of the type that work on motor assembly lines and choreographed them in a sensual courtship dance in a futuristic fusion of synthetic and organic characteristics. A always Cunningham’s roots in the special effects industry are evident with a cinematic quality to every thing he does.
With all the best intentions this attempt by Audi to bring their products closer to the customer through digital means maybe hampered by the level of technology employed meaning the whole exercise could serve as another layer interface between customer and purchase. Even if the exercise does backfire Audi will have gained some welcome high-brow high-tech savvy brand exposure.
By Hugo Mc Cafferty