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When There’s Benz and BMW, Why Buy Audi?

audi advert

By Gunnar Heinrich

SO, you’ve watched the recent Olympics and Super Bowl adverts.

You’ve taken note of other postings paying  homage to the Audi Quattro brand’s 30th year in business and studied all those vintage rally pics with enthusiasm. And you’ve taken better note of a spanking new Q5 on the highway and that old, pimped-out A6  that parks near your car in the garage day in and day out.

Now, with all this increase in “brand awareness” floating through your (and the public) conscious, let’s ask a fairly basic question:

What’s the point to driving an Audi?

Since time immemorial, Audi’s pitch to Americans has hinged on two facets: we’ve got all-wheel drive and understatement. These days,  consumers might furtively ask: AND?

Yes, the automotive market needs variety, but is Audi really the answer? What is special about putting down for another German car sold at Mercedes or BMW prices that offers less than its rivals?

Less prestige, less comfort, less longevity, and less fun.

Truth is, all the major car manufacturers are now offering all-wheel drive options across their entire lineups. And each car maker sells models that vary dynamically between the exciting and the low key – that’s why Mercedes offers the  SLS AMG “Gullwing” alongside the E-Class wagon.

If Audi is to remain a viable player, Ingolstadt needs to cleave a new and more convincing facets to compete against the rivals it claims to surpass.

February 15, 2010
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About the Author: Gunnar Heinrich is publisher of Automobiles De Luxe online and is executive producer of the Automobiles De Luxe Television series on PBS member station CPTV.

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  1. As I live in Vancouver, I’ve noticed the Germans are using Audis as VIP shuttles during the Olympic Games. Infact, just the other day I spotted a nice A6 wagon wearing Ingolstadt plates. Kind of makes me wonder why Audi Canada couldn’t just loan them the cars, instead of shipping over German registered models.

  2. And it’s getting a little tiresome having Audi constantly show old generation MB, BMW, Lexus cars and then have current gen Audis pull up alongside them.

  3. I recently picked up a brand new C220 CDI Benz. I’d never felt anything but indifference for Audi before this; but now, after driving for a few days, and looking out for other small luxury cars more, I can’t help but feel slightly pitiful towards Audi A4 drivers. Audis, while they may be superior in quality and design (they MAY be) they feel like second class next to a 330i or C350.

    That probably explains why Audi spends so much time and much more money playing snarky catchup games in advertising campaigns.

  4. I totally agree with the above comments. It is not surprising ing the oneliner is ” The big german 2 + audi”. We think Audi is more a luxes VW for people who can’t choose between a benz and a beamer.
    Fortunately, we do’t see those stupid Audi advertising campaigns over here.

  5. I can’t get beyond the expectation that Audi’s should have a small premium in price over Volkswagens, similar to Buick v. Chevy rather than Cadillac v. Chevy. With my preference for ‘gently used’ luxury, Audi does bring the benefit of rapid depreciation with A8′s quickly falling the price level of 5ers and E’s if not 3′s and C’s.

    If only I didn’t fear the repair costs of the AWD.

  6. I agree with Sybarite. Audi knows if they put the A5 convertible aganist a E class ocnvertible, the contest owuld be over. people would watch the commercial and go “how can I get that Mercedes?” All their (Audis) commercials do is make Mercedes-Benz look even classier because they DON’T do ads like this, and even if they did, they would still have more class than Audi. I use to like Audis, but after these ads, I really dont.

  7. Things will never again be as they once were.

    Mercedes no longer offers the seemingly indestructible, “bank vault” solidity present in their products twenty or more years ago. BMW’s Mini products are dead last in customer satisfaction in JD Power’s 2009 Quality survey. In the same survey, Hyundai, the South Korean maker of affordable, mass market cars, outperformed both BMW and Mercedes.

    BMW’s, including Minis, are still compelling to drive, but now even mass market cars like the Ford Focus can receive wide praise for excellent performance dynamics. What used to set BMW apart is now available from any number of BMW’s competitors.

    Desiring to boost earning by increasing sales volumes, both BMW and Mercedes have introduced many down market products such as the A class and 1 series that dilute whatever upper crust brand associations the marques used to enjoy. Sure, Mercedes still sells some ridiculously expensive cars, but I argue that obnoxious, ostentatious cars sold to any lout with money and questionable taste destroys rather than builds a brand’s association with socially charged concepts like class, power, prestige and sophistication.

    Although this post reacts specifically to Audi’s challenge, I don’t feel it matters which company is the challenger. BMW and Mercedes have changed, their products have changed and customer perceptions are sure to follow, especially when helped along by the cheeky advertisements of a competent challenger.

    I sympathize with the frustration fans of BMW and Mercedes must feel as they have watched each company drift away from or lose a monopoly on the core values that caused the fans to admire BMW and Mercedes so long ago. I wasn’t pleased to watch it happen myself.

  8. The more BMW screws up their cars (Run Flat Tires, IDrive, Chris Bangle, soft water-based paints, Active Steering, cheap interiors, X6, 5 Series GT) the more Audi gets it right. When the last used E39 is gone, I’ll probably buy an Audi. Come on BMW, didn’t we almost have it all? What a mess.

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