Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Those Eyes, That Nose

by Tom Bozzo

Sunday morning on Highway 12 between Madison and Cambridge (Wisconsin), cruising along in the wagon with Suzanne at the wheel, something approaches in the other direction. My head turns as it flashes by. Suzanne says, "Was that..."

"Yes," I say, "that's the new A6." Viewed in less dramatic light, of course.

"Do you like that?" asks Suzanne, with a little wrinkling of nose.

Pause. "Uh." Long pause. "Well." Longer pause. "I guess I don't hate it."

And so goes another chapter in the saga of this era of bold design for upscale cars, which less charitably might be called designers run amok. BMW design chief Chris Bangle is Public Enemy #1 in some circles over the latest redesigns of the 7 and 5.

Audi sought not to be outdone, with its design head Walter de'Silva decreeing that a version of the above grille -- originally seen on a 2003 Geneva show car, the Nuvolari quattro, a large coupe with TT influences -- would grace the entire model range in time (specifically, MY'06, when updates of the A4 and TT are expected).

The question is, should Audi and BMW marketers really want their owners (the wagon is an A4 Avant) debating the freakishness of their new models? I don't think so, but I don't know the limits to modern marketing counterintuition.

For two data points, Autospies reports plummeting 7-series sales in November, though in the same period the new A6 was the only bright spot for Audi.
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