They often say the car you drive is a reflection of you. So choosing to drive an Audi is surely a reflection of the type of person you are. Late last decade, Jeremy Clarkson, the lead face of BBC’s Top Gear television show, was highly vocal about the raft of Audi drivers in their grey suits, donning bluetooth headsets and driving within inches of the car ahead. He even went as far as labelling tailgaters as drivers in the “Audi zone”. Humorous and as lighthearted as it may have been, it naturally resulted in many labelling Audi drivers in a negative light. Even today, many would agree that a journey along any of the UK’s motorways would see you hard pressed to complete your drive without having been blinded by the LEDs of fast lane Audi drivers. Do drivers faced with the Four Rings suddenly develop the need to hustle other road users into the slow lane? Is this the result of Audi’s ‘cocky‘ marketing?
To answer this, we need to consider the image Audi has to consumers, and as a result what type of person drives an Audi. In recent times, Audi has gained an image of quality, reliability and even a sense of class. This image came about after the marque shot to motoring headlines with its pioneering quattro rally and sports car. This was during a time in the 80s, when not only mullets and padded shoulders were popular, but also super-car performance four-wheel drive rally cars. Audi’s decision to break conventions and enter the World Rally Championship with their quattro sports car, gave them the image of a pioneering, technologically advanced manufacturer. This was reflected in their car sales, with the popularity of the Audi brand subsequently increasing rapidly in almost all regions across the globe.
As a result, Audi’s previous image as the re-named Auto Union – a brand that had let go of its racing roots and taken on a fairly boring, tame family car image – was thankfully forgotten. In its place came the new image of Audi, a daring manufacturer who led the way in car development. Most importantly though, Audi became cool.
No better way was this cool, confident image displayed than in Audi’s famous ‘Villa’ advert. Featuring no audio, little footage of any cars and simple narration, the advert immediately became a classic. Describing a common scene for British tourists – the battle to reserve a sunbed from equally competitive Germans, the narrator describes the only way to beat a German to the beach, is with an Audi; which of course, is German. Irony, humour and overwhelming confidence, the advert was a major success.
Audi’s image didn’t freeze there however. More motorsport success, fast performance saloons and estates throughout the 90s and most recently, a cutting-edge, aggressive design philosophy has seen Audi evolve its cool image into a futuristic, almost aerospace image. This is perfectly illustrated below:
Not only does this advert reveal just the tiniest of details, it also gives the R8 an almost sinister look. The LEDs, a famous feature of all Audis now, also add to the space-like imagery.
So is it this cool, futuristic imagery that has attracted so many tailgating salesman to pilot Audis across the nation? Probably not. What has most likely attracted Audi buyers to buying an Audi, is their development of diesel technology. Even the US, a nation that lags far behind Europe in accepting diesel technology, bought over 100,000 diesel Audis last year (Jalopnik, 2013). With Audis possessing a cool aggressive image, whilst providing fast but efficient engines, customers are able to enjoy the best of both worlds: both form and function.
Audis are also renowned for their high build quality, meaning customers who want to drive what many would consider a premium car, would no doubt see an Audi as a strong offering. Audi Sport, the marque’s performance division adds further prestige to the badge with its S versions of standard cars, whilst the marque’s racing performances cement that they are still technological leaders in many realms.
Tailgaters they may be, Audis of today are highly desirable vehicles. Drivers of their cars may be shadowed in a dark light by many, but as they sit behind the Four Ringed emblem and hustle their way along, they are effectively a reflection of the confident image Audi has given itself. In business terms, this is a major marketing success.
Jalopnik, 2013. [Online] Available at: http://jalopnik.com/vw-and-audi-sold-more-than-100-000-diesels-in-the-us-th-1488494791