The days of visiting a car dealership, sitting in the model you’re interested in, touching the trim, and hearing the thunk of the door as you close it could be numbered. Audi has revealed what it considers to be the car dealership of the future, and it probably won’t contain any actual cars at all.
Audi City is an entirely digital dealership, where virtual, life-size cars are displayed on massive screens, and prospective buyers use touchscreen panels to change the specification and build their perfect car from scratch.
It’s not unlike the way most car manufacturer’s websites work, and Audi City showrooms are designed to fit into urban settings, where a massive showroom simply isn’t possible. With a modern, high-tech showroom the size of a regular shop, Audi can get closer to wealthy customers who live outside the city.
Aside from this, a virtual showroom can store every single model in Audi’s range, and show every possible permutation at the click of a button. Audi sells 12 different models, some of them with as many as six different versions, and all with many individual options, making it impossible to physically display each and every one of them.
The first Audi City has opened in Piccadilly Circus, London, and the company has plans to open 20 more around the world by 2015.
Cars are displayed on three massive screens, each made up of nine 72-inch panels, which Audi call Powerwalls. Kinect-style cameras recognize when you want to interact with the screens, and motion sensors on the floor are used to cycle through options.
When you’ve loaded up your car, a video showing it driving around will play, and the exact sound of the engine you’ve chosen will play through the speakers.
Take a look at the demo video below to see just how interactive the experience will be, and note the slab-like color swatches, which cleverly use Wi-Fi to add the color to your virtual car when placed next to a screen.
When you’re all done, the car you’ve designed will be loaded onto a memory stick for you to take away.
Audi has plans to use the showrooms to hold art exhibitions and small events too, showing it’s as much about building brand awareness as it is about selling cars.
The first step in the buying process
Ultimately though, it will need to sell a few, but will car buyers be happy to buy a car in the same way as they would buy any other product over the Internet? After all, many of us will have purchased items sight unseen before, but there is a big difference between buying a $500 smartphone online, and ordering a $50,000 car without seeing it in the metal first.
Our guess is they won’t, and these urban locations will simply be the first step in the buying process, for now at least.
Audi is the first car manufacturer to open a solely digital showroom, but brands such as BMW, Aston Martin and Infiniti are all working on similar projects.