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Audi and the art of customising cars in the virtual world

Amrita Nair-Ghaswalla | Updated on September 20, 2019

The German luxury brand is leveraging new tools to attract buyers

German car-maker Audi is harnessing virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) to create a more engaging sales experience.

The company has been experimenting since the early days of VR’s resurgence to see how the technology can be used effectively. Meanwhile, the team in India has tinkered around a little more to devise a personalised touch-and-feel experience to car buying.

They have built a digital offering, which acts as a virtual car configurator. Consumers can strap on a headset and view detailed life-size car models while being able to choose a specific colour and configuration.

At the Audi office in Mumbai, this writer decided to do just that. Donning the VR headset, one is immediately transported to the virtual Audi world where the latest model is within touching distance. It allows you to run your finger on the go-faster wings and spoilers, or check out the intricacies of the spikes on the hubcaps.

The head-mounted display device provides a simulated visual environment in which one can take in the car in its entirety. The stunning technology, tweaked by the Indian team, allows users to intuitively move around the vehicle within the virtual world.

Donning the headset also helps the focus shift to the current model’s geometric complexity. The enhanced visual quality reveals a crisp look, both inside and outside of the vehicle.

The realistic lighting, reflections on the hood of the car, opening and closing doors, turning on the headlights, raising a toast from the mini fridge are all meant to delight. Consumers can explore current and classic Audi models with the AR headset and even customise them, right down to the colour of the inner seam on the driver’s chair. The tech application is being rolled out across dealerships.

Audi is just one of the many global brands to have actively adopted VR and AR to its marketing practices. It clearly recognises the huge potential of these experiential technologies and wants to be ahead of the curve.

Huge potential

Customers today are looking to own cars that are smart and highly customised, says Balbir Singh Dhillon, Head, Audi India. “Digitisation is one of the key focus pillars and the future for Audi in India. We want to enhance customer experience through all stages of interaction with the brand and across all touch points,” he adds.

Through VR, continues Dhillon, the company wants customers to experience every detail of their individually configured car. AR gives them an option to view their Audi in the comfort of their home or office environment “on a digital device in a miniature form”.

The team at Audi India has configured the master vehicle models as the basis for the visualisation. As they contain every single panel, fuse, fastener and screw, the visual in front of the consumer is all-encompassing.

Prospective buyers can personalise their vehicles, starting from exterior paint shades and wheel rim designs, right down to the choice of leather upholstery. Audi is making these services available at convenient locations.

Importance of customisation

According to Dhillon, a large chunk of car buyers in India expect their favourite brand to be more than just a car. “Audi has observed lately that the concept of individuality is fast finding a new audience and customisation is the answer to strong personalities requiring an outlet for expression,” he says.

The brand also offers an ‘Audi Exclusive’ range of features and configurations that further allow for customisation. Buyers can choose from a wide array of features to enhance the appearance of their Audi, adds Dhillon.

Audi Exclusive provides a range of colours designed to offer the right tone and a special feel in accordance with customers’ choice. They can also opt for features like a Bose or Bang & Olufsen sound system apart from ‘comfort seat configuration’ to take the definition of luxury to the next level.

Not surprisingly, there is great demand for customised cars. Dhillon says the most desired option is the rear seat executive package, which provides an “aircraft-like business class experience” in terms of comfort. The brand also offers different shades in leather that can be customised.

Audi recently delivered a customised Audi RS 5 to a young perfumer in New Delhi. “He wanted his blue Audi RS 5 to reflect his personality,” recalls Dhillon.

The company added red brake calipers, carbon inlays in the RS look and a matt aluminum exterior styling package to complete the package. As he says, today’s buyers are not just looking for accessories like individual paint jobs but want to choose from a wide range of smart solutions that are at the heart of the driving experience.

Published on September 20, 2019

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