Audi City, Mayfair
Can one really predict the future? Not imagine it, but actually know it?
Can one really predict the future? Not imagine it, but actually know it? One of the strange side effects of being a Lussonian is developing an almost sixth sense for what’s going to be said (and the manner of its delivery) at press launches.
The Germans, for example, do insist on doing things in style – exotic locations, unique event staging – but one knows that eventually a very healthy looking gentleman in an exquisitely cut grey suit, crisp white, open-necked shirt, wire rim glasses perched on aquiline nose, will get up and make a speech. He (if it’s tech, it’s he) will speak English to a perfectly usable and charming level. The problem will be that, idiomatically and rhetorically, English requires more than just the technicalities of grammar. Wit, allusion, tempo and metaphor are the tools of the natural orator. And, alas, these are not in the chat quiver of your average Teutonic technologist. But mainly, one misses a sense of demur Anglo-Saxon irony.
I recline in my very competently driven, complimentary Audi A8 limo on the way to the launch of Audi City, the car company’s new retail concept showroom on Piccadilly. As I do, through a smokey mental haze, my well-buffed third eye attempts to preempt the schtick…
“We are forging new technologies, for to be a big part of this exciting new millenium that we are living in.”
“The way we all live our lives is now for choice and interactivity.”
“We have chosen to launch in London, because it is the centre of global creativity that you see, then we will open in the other centres of creative energy – Shanghai, Berlin, Paris, Rome, Barcelona, Moscow and New York.”
Was I right? Three for three, as they say in baseball, probably. Luckily, Audi City does a lot of talking on it’s own. And it is impressively eloquent in any language.
Essentially, it’s designed to marry the scope of information available online, with the thrill of being in a science fiction showroom of the future, in the hub of classic Mayfair. Audi City is one part virtual dealership and two parts experiential brand theatre, as envisioned by Ridley Scott. The company feels that city centres are ‘where trends are created, where social diversity lives and leading brands from other sectors – such as fashion, design or electronics – are represented.’ In other words, they’ve seen the future of high-end retail.
Thanks to state-of-the-art media technology – floor-to-ceiling projection surfaces, or powerwalls – Audi City offers several hundred million possible configurations (yes, that number is correct at time of print) spanning the entire 36 model range – including all colours, equipment options and functions. And since an increasing number of customers want to drive their own personal, individualised cars, this will also be a big aspect of the new venture. However, in the new world of ‘Trans-media’, simply selling your wares is considered way too monovisionary. Now, advertisers have to develop a social agenda. Inevitably, the age of interconnectivity has ushered in a brand (perhaps bland) new kind of woolly utopianism.
So in the same place where customers will gather information on their new Audi by day, the evening visitor will experience a wide-ranging programme of readings, round-table discussions and exhibitions – on matters of urban development and mobility, to issues of art, culture and design. Yes, it’s a space ‘to engage in dialogue with the brand and allows Audi to connect with the life of the city.’ This isn’t a car show room. It’s a salon. The launch is thus festooned with A-list brand ambassadors from the creative arts – Thandie Newton, my old mate Clive Owen and other famous people who don’t mind being bunged a free R8. Who would? The nibbles and cocktails are intricate, innovative and plentiful.
Centre stage on the night is to be a specially commissioned live installation by 90’s video wunderkind Chris Cunningham. Back when I was in the approaching limo, I predicted his contribution would feature two massive motion controlled cameras, acting as robots that rut in a mating battle to be the first to fire their priapic laser jizz into a cipher female machine’s, ahem, box, accompanied by very loud techno music. And smoke. Was I right? Well, let’s just say I’m a big Cunningham fan, so that wasn’t much of a psychic strain. I am, however, already taking punts on the 2016 Derby winner.
This very cool JG Ballardian fetish show of machines, architecture and shopping, slick and kinky as it is, doesn’t address how far-reaching Audi think their synergy with urban living can be. The nature of human work must evolve, too. Salespeople will not sell. They will liaise, advise and build long-term relationships. ‘Employees increasingly have broad-based educational backgrounds – they are, for example, IT experts, able to explain competently to the customer the digital world of Audi City.’ Competent is a very Audi word. I suppose in a future of synthetic meat, overpopulation, 10 hour traffic jams and really, REALLY bad reality television beamed direct into our synapses while we sleep, ‘competent’ will be worth its weight it gold. Oh, did I say synthetic meat? That’s my big premonition for 2020. See you at Tubby Terry’s Test Tube Steakhouse. ON THE MOON!