A tyre track in the snow: an elderly Eskimo respectfully points it out to his grandson as “quattro”. The monsoon season in India: only the German ambassador in his Audi A4 quattro makes it along the flooded, muddy roads to the Maharajah’s gala dinner. The ski jump that the Audi 100 quattro climbs by its own efforts – in the past 25 years, Audi has commissioned a whole series of unforgettable TV commercials aimed at maintaining public awareness of the quattro mystique and the emotive appeal associated with it.
The idea behind the ski jump spot took shape in 1986 at the BBDO advertising agency in Düsseldorf, Germany. When tested on a glacier in the Tyrol, an Audi 100 quattro proved capable of climbing a 39-degree gradient. The ski jump that was eventually found in Kaipola, Finland, had a slope angle of 37.5 degrees – or to put it another way, a gradient of 80 percent – a scarcely less difficult challenge. A crane lifted the car onto the ski jump’s take-off platform, where it was carefully secured in three different ways: by a concealed steel cable, a forward-mounted braking system and a safety net under the take-off platform. In the event, professional rally driver Harald Demuth, who had driven the quattro during his active career, had no need of any of these safety devices. He drove the Audi effortlessly up the 78-metre long ski jump, despite having only a very restricted view of the proceedings, since the nose of the Audi was of course pointed steeply upwards towards the sky.
This commercial bathed the Audi advertising concept in a warm and approving light from which it still benefits today. The overall strategy was, and still is, concentrated with no frills on the actual products – an approach typical of the Audi brand.
Product credibility is communicated beyond any doubt, the more so since the quattro models’ motor sport successes have shaped the Audi brand image more strongly than advertising campaigns costing millions could ever have done.
Principles of brevity and implication in understated form prevail in Audi’s advertising and are typical of the way the cars are presented. The quattro variants differ very little from their counterparts with front-wheel drive – they are not exotic members of the model programme but an integral element in the driving force behind this high-tech brand. quattro thus stands not only for ‘traction’ but for more – emotion, driving safety and dynamism, accompanied by technical competence and a dynamic outlook on life.
The exclusive character of this specific Audi lifestyle is the governing factor behind quattro GmbH, which began trading in 1983. Since 1996, which saw the debut of the S6 plus, this Audi subsidiary company has operated as a vehicle manufacturer; last year it equipped more than 7,000 cars in accordance with the purchasers’ individual wishes. quattro GmbH has a staff of 300 and its own development and production facilities.
Another tool at Audi’s disposal when it comes to maintaining the fascination of the quattro is the creation of spectacular concept cars. In the autumn of 1991, the company presented two mid-engined sports cars with permanent all-wheel drive in quick succession at the international motor shows in Frankfurt and Tokyo. These were the quattro Spyder and the Avus quattro – the latter unforgettable for many reasons, one of them being its gleaming polished aluminium body.
The concept cars that attracted much attention four years later in Tokyo were closer to motoring reality. The TT quattro was not far from production readiness in Coupé and Roadster form. Then came the 2003 ‘show cars’, also with permanent all-wheel drive: the large Pikes Peak, the elegant Nuvolari Coupé and the Le Mans quattro supersports model.