Audi's Sick of Making Look-alike Cars; Design Chief Wants an 8 Series Rival

audis sick of making look alike cars design chief wants an 8 series rival

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 — 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.

“We 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 today’s world I think each model should have its own design to be attractive for this long time.”

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 coupé, 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]

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  • Heino Heino on Jan 04, 2018

    The same for motorcycles. No matter what country (save for HD), every naked sportbike has the same Quasimodo look of being hunchbacked and holding your headlight in your hands. You can get overpriced retro air-cooled bikes on the low end or get a retro looking expensive large bike. Everything thing else in between looks the same, yes including you BMW and KTM. Designers are an incestuous breed.

  • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Jan 04, 2018

    Funny, my next door neighbor finally gave up on his 1998 A4 Avant - and bought an A3 wagon just like it. The changes are minor, mostly in the front and rear ends, and the higher beltline, but it's basically the same car, with the same dimensions. He traded in a troublesome 2.8 V6 to get a turbo 2.0 I4, but gets more horsepower and better fuel economy. As far as looks are concerned, he just shrugged, and the guy is in his late 30s. He doesn't care, and even chose the same shade of blue. Scott25 is onto something.

  • Skippity Noticeable as an Paseo. Maybe I'll see it differently live.
  • Tagbert I had this JX, though mine was a 5-speed in dark green. Got it when I lived in the mountains in Colorado. That was a fun little beast. Not super fast, but it could go just about anywhere. Put it into the low speed on the transfer case and that thing would just creep forward. The interior was not fancy but it held up well to lots of outdoor activities. I could hold lots of gear. Later when I moved away, it still proved useful. I was an unofficial “roadie” for my boyfriend and his band. Could get all their gear into it. The in-town gas mileage was around 25 mph which is pretty good. On the downside, the highway mileage was maybe 26 mph 😊.
  • Skippity I had a 308 in the 80's. Said Matchbox on the bottom.
  • ToolGuy When The Grand Tour covered the Manx way back in 2016, my first thought was "That would make an ideal EV candidate." Range is not an issue, lightweight, torquey, quiet and harmonious with nature (to the end user).Could I be a prophet??
  • BetterOne Not sure where you got your info from, Corey, but in North America the 2020 Cadenza continued on with the direct-injected 3.3L Lambda II V6. Apart from a larger infotainment screen, the 2020 was notably decontented from the prior model, too - no HUD or power rear sunshade, for example.