Audi opens 'digital' showroom as luxury carmakers hit shopping streets

Wed Feb 5, 2014 8:28am EST
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By Andreas Cremer

BERLIN (Reuters) - Audi has opened a "digital" showroom on a major Berlin shopping street, part of a shift by luxury carmakers to display vehicles virtually as they move into smaller, pricier city center locations to woo young affluent buyers.

The showroom, on Berlin's grand Kurfuerstendamm boulevard, is a quarter of the size of a conventional dealership and displays just four models. But it allows time-pressed customers to view and configure cars from Audi's full 49-model line-up on multi-media screens, without having to drive out of town.

It's a strategy also being embraced by German rivals BMW and Daimler's Mercedes-Benz as, after a six-year European market slump, carmakers overhaul sales practices and look for new ways to attract customers.

"Staging the brand is becoming so much more important," Audi's head of Germany sales, Wayne Griffiths, told Reuters.

The digital showroom, opened on Tuesday, is Volkswagen-owned Audi's third worldwide after openings in London and Beijing, and is close to Apple Inc and BMW stores.

Like its two German rivals, Ingolstadt-based Audi is faced with the challenge of displaying an ever-growing model and technology portfolio in urban centers where space is scarce.

Hence the smaller 375-square-metre showroom and the focus on virtual demonstrations, which are combined with the personal touch of a car dealer and the comfort of a customer lounge.

Audi is attracting 8,000 visitors a week to its digital showroom in Beijing which opened in January 2013, and at the store in London, launched in July 2012, 60 percent of customers are new to the brand, according to Griffiths.   Continued...

The Audi logo is shown at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan January 14, 2013. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook