After years of producing near-identical looking Audis which even we struggle to distinguish, Ingolstadt is about to embark on a range redesign. CAR magazine caught up with Audi's head of design Wolfgang Egger for a quick interview to find out what he has planned for the four-ringed executive brand in the coming years.
CAR: The Audi brand is about to reinvent itself. Such a process typically starts with design.
Wolfgang Egger: 'Indeed. We are going to restructure the design department and advance our design philosophy. On the one hand, this means establishing more creative working methods and more efficient processes. On the other hand, we are about to implement an evolutionary design language. The next model generations from Audi will in all segments fuse exterior and interior design to a more homogenous whole.'
Will Audi's controversial single-frame, goatee-beard grille survive?
'Sure. The single-frame is now part of the Audi design DNA. But it will become more authentic, innovative, three-dimensional and evolutionary. For instance, there are going to be different grille themes for the A-, R- and Q-ranges as well as different variations for the base, S and RS models. Just look at the next Q-generation where the frame becomes much more sculptural. It will always be made of metal, but instead of chrome we might use anodized aluminium, brushed steel or some sort of high-tech coating.'
You mentioned streamlined processes for designing future Audis. Can you give a concrete example?
'In the past, we did the first sketches four-and-a-half years prior to SOP [start-of-production]. As the next step, we built models, then the selection was narrowed down to a few finalists, and eventually we had a winner. This was a logical and pragmatic sequence, but it was not always sufficiently quick and flexible. In the future, the initial concept phase will play a more important role at Audi. Work starts in the so-called Atelier where five teams are defining a given new car project. Each team has between two and 20 members, all team leaders are on the same hierarchical level. The goal of the Atelier approach is ultimate creativity. To push the envelope, there is constant interaction between the teams. The only thing that matters is the perfect end result. Sometimes, we get there quite quickly, but in nine out of ten cases it is hard work.'
How does the transformation from concept to production work at Audi?
'As soon as the proposal submitted by the Atelier has been accepted, project management and design management take over. There are no changes to those who are in charge. Achim Badstübner is in control of the exterior, Enzo Rothfuss masterminds the interior, Simona Falcinella is number one for colour and trim.'
Where does the long-range radar of advanced design fit in the new scheme of things?
'Led by Steve Lewis, our Concept Design Studio in Munich is now free to look even further into the future. Their work is actually more and more detached from specific upcoming Audi products. After all, we must also investigate the constantly changing context of sustainable mobility, the socio-cultural framework, the economic and environmental implications. With the help of trend scouts, materials experts and drivetrain wizards, we are trying to predict what makes the automotive world tick in 15 to 20 years' time.'
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