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[YesAuto David Aesthetics] In the wave of the development of Chinese auto brands, how to build a “luxury” brand has always been the most concerned topic. If you want to ask who has been most affected by the development of China's luxury car market in decades, senior practitioners of major Chinese car companies will often answer-Audi. From the era of high-end official cars to the opening of the young market's strategy of sinking and sinking, Audi's design has evolved with the background of the times. This evolution is particularly representative for the Audi Q7.

This issue of “David Aesthetics” interviewed professional designers from a third-party design company, ICONA, and through their perspectives, talked about the evolution logic and story of the Audi Q7's design.

Don't underestimate this third-party design company. Like Pininfarina, it has undertaken a lot of car design work that we know well, but due to commercial confidentiality, we will not introduce it in detail here.

The Audi brand that influences a generation of Chinese automakers

Before talking about the Audi Q7, we must first tell the story of that era. In 1988, FAW and Audi signed a contract in Changchun to transfer Audi 100 body molds to FAW. In the past few years, several major German auto companies have started rapid development in China, and the growth of many Chinese auto practitioners has been deeply influenced by the German auto industry.

The reason why Audi was able to become a “model” in the Chinese luxury car market is that after the Audi cars were made in China, they were assembled in China with imported parts in the first few years. At the price of hundreds of thousands at that time, the private sector could neither digest nor privately own them. The car policy can basically only be used as the official car purchase of the government and government agencies.

With the vigorous development of the Chinese automobile market, the Chinese market has quickly become the world's largest single market for the Audi brand. The demand of the Chinese market has highly influenced the development and design of Audi models. The “lengthening” with Chinese characteristics began when Audi was used as an official vehicle. of.

Under such an aesthetic trend of the times, after entering the new century for quite some time, many senior car practitioners and older car users have scorned the design of French cars, Korean cars and some Japanese cars, thinking that their design ” Fancy and fancy”, not grand at all, then turned and pointed to the neat front face and interior of Audi and Volkswagen and praised: This is what a car looks like.

Audi's first SUV witnesses the design evolution of Audi in the new century

It is in this context that the Audi Q7 was born and quickly entered China. In 2005, the first SUV of the Audi brand, the Q7, was born. This medium and large SUV was on the same platform as the Touareg and Cayenne at the time. In 2006, it entered the Chinese market in the form of imports. When the first generation of Audi Q7 was born, Audi was still in the era of official cars. A considerable part of Audi Q7 was oriented to the official car and high-end commercial car market. Therefore, the design style naturally needs to meet the needs of these users, simple, atmospheric and comfortable enough inside. .

The first generation of Audi Q7 has two design features of the Audi family at that time, the first is the rounded and full lines. In the first few years of the new century, the Audi brand used sleek lines and full outlines to create a body with a strong sense of strength. This design style originated from the second-generation Audi A6 in the late 1990s. At that time, the SUV models were not separated from the category of off-road vehicles in the mainstream trend. Therefore, in terms of design, they were naturally not separated from the style of off-road vehicles, and emphasized the vigorous shape that emphasized the sense of strength.

The second feature of the Audi Q7 is the “big mouth” grille we are familiar with today. This design style was pioneered by Audi. It first appeared in the Nuvolari concept car in 2003 and was first applied to the third generation released in 2004. On the Audi A6, the Audi Q7 released the following year also used this big mouth.

With the application of Audi, the big mouth design has become popular throughout the automobile manufacturing industry. The reason lies in the changes in demand. After entering the 21st century, market demand and regulatory requirements, the design and development concept of automobiles began to pay attention to the concept of pedestrian protection, which requires vehicles to reduce the damage of pedestrians' lower limbs during collisions. The most closely related to this requirement is the bumper. . Car companies tried to find a way from the two aspects of material and structure. First, the bumper was replaced with plastic, but it was not enough. Therefore, it was necessary to further weaken and increase the buffer area, so Audi designers and engineers geniusly made a large enough “Mouth” strengthens the visual impact of the front face, and can also meet pedestrian protection regulations.

The technology used in the flagship car is more advanced than that of the low-end car, so the replacement cycle is longer. After 10 years of the first generation of Audi Q7, the second generation of Audi Q7 based on the MLB Evo platform was finally released in 2015.

In order to promote the development of China's autonomous vehicles, in 2012, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology released the “2012 Catalogue of Official Vehicles for Party and Government Organs”, stipulating that official vehicles will no longer include non-Chinese brands from now on. In 2014, the “Guiding Opinions on Comprehensively Promoting the Reform of the Official Car System” and the “Central and State Organs' Official Car System Reform Plan” were issued, and the public car reform was officially launched.

Of course, the Audi brand does not rely heavily on official car orders. Its approach is to use official cars to open up the private luxury car market. This strategy is undoubtedly successful. Audi has already expected to withdraw from the Chinese official car market. Therefore, after 2010, it has successively launched a series of young style models such as A1, A3, Q3, S6, S7, RS5 in the Chinese market, and then made the Audi A3 domestically produced. And reduced the entry-level model to 184,900, which led to the sinking battle of luxury brands.

Therefore, the design style of the second-generation Audi Q7 and even the entire brand has shifted to a younger and more urbanized design. In the eyes of many people, the previous majesty of the Audi Q7 has been weakened a lot.

As the policy urges Chinese families to have only one car in general, this requires family cars to meet most travel needs as much as possible, so the SUV market has exploded in the past 10 years. Coupled with the increase in the rate of urban residents' car purchases and the urbanization process, the characteristics of SUV products generally show urbanization, and hard-core off-road vehicles/SUVs have become a niche.

Although Audi Q7 has good passing performance, it can also adapt to more complicated road conditions through air suspension, but in terms of product positioning and design style, we should not put too much emphasis on hardline routes, but need to strengthen the sense of exquisite luxury that is more valued by urban groups.

This year, the second-generation Audi Q7 ushered in its fifth year on the market, and the mid-term facelift model was launched as scheduled. Although it is a mid-term facelift, its changes look more like a product update comparable to a new generation, with a new front face, a substantially modified interior and a new 3.0T+48V hybrid system.

Compared with the first-generation Q7, we can't help but have a question in our minds. Why did the once solemn and majestic Audi look like a different one? Has it become the “bells and whistles” among the population of that generation?

Zhu Yuan Design Manager

For the changes in Audi Q7, styling designer Zhu Yuan thinks it is a matter of course. The post-80s have entered the new century when they are in contact with vehicles. This is when Chinese auto brands enter the market and the Chinese market is fully competitive. Coupled with the high-speed circulation of information in the Internet age, this generation is far more receptive to new things than the previous generation. people. The new generation of social elites' understanding and demand for cars has undergone tremendous changes.

Sufficient market competition makes the younger generation of users more inclined to let vehicles please and meet their own needs. In addition, the status of Chinese women ranks high among the countries in the world, and there are relatively more independent female elites, and Audi has a relatively high proportion of female car owners. Therefore, more consideration must be given to the sense of control and volume.

Increasing emphasis on the sense of consumption

So, why is the shape of the Audi Q7 no longer so simple? Did you give up the German taste? No, it is still user needs that have changed. In other words, the user's taste has been “developed”.

This is not a bad thing. It is precisely because of the full competition of major international car companies and Chinese brands that the competition in auto products has become fierce, and everyone has made unique moves. In the past 30 years, we have caught up with the rise of Korean cars. Korean cars have quickly made a market by relying on their excellent styling design and abundant configuration materials. Chinese car companies are very good at learning advanced experience, so we see that the car products of major Chinese brands compete with each other with high configuration. Only from the paper configuration, it completely crushes the joint venture brand models of the same level or even higher.

In order to emphasize the visible advantages and product features, so that Audi Q7 owners have a more “money-spending” feeling, Audi chose a more exaggerated styling to make the vehicle look more uncomfortable.

Perhaps many people think that the shape of the mid-term change of the Q7 is not very exaggerated, it depends on who is compared. At present, the competition in the market is fierce. If you want to get users, you have to give a stronger visual impact to get attention. Therefore, we see that the models on the market are becoming more avant-garde and exaggerated. The rise of this trend is to some extent thanks to the market exploration of new car companies in the past five or six years. In order to quickly gain market access, it is recognized that the most effective way for new car companies is to work hard on design. New car companies have no historical burden and are electric cars, so they dare to design very radical shapes to highlight their distinctive style. , So as to get user attention.

This move by new car companies has indeed brought attention and even orders to themselves, but it has also explored and cultivated the aesthetic acceptance of Chinese consumers, allowing traditional car companies to see that the original risk of being a bit more aggressive is not so great. So many car companies have followed suit, just as the trend led by Audi's big mouth shape back then.

Zhu Yuan’s feelings in IKona Design Company are more obvious. In the past, the design needs of Chinese car companies were basically traditional styles such as grandeur and luxury. However, after about 2015, more and more car company customers proposed individuality. , Public design needs.

Chinese car companies can highly adopt radical designs. On the one hand, their brand design history is not deep, and even if they are used, they are often used in new brand models. The flagship models of high-end brands like Audi Q7, on the one hand, have a high positioning, on the other hand, they have historical heritage and large old users. They are not suitable and do not need to be too free. After all, the aesthetic direction of the market has never been easy to observe accurately and timely. of.

Of course, the Audi Q7 has mainly carried out more radical design attempts on the front face, but more is to strengthen the user's sense of consumption by emphasizing the sense of refinement and the sense of configuration.

Speaking of the sense of refinement, it is normal for a huge SUV to look bloated and bulky, but it is definitely the opposite of the sense of refinement. So how to get a sense of refinement while retaining the sense of power?

The design and function of the lights have become an important label and product point of Audi over the years. The new Q7 can be equipped with laser headlights with matrix LED technology, and the top-mounted model is equipped with this function as standard. But what we are talking about is not this configuration, but that even the headlights of ordinary models have become somewhat different and look more complicated.

Zhu Yuan said that, in fact, the design of the headlights is more difficult than imagined. The design of headlights normally takes one year. As a component, the span of the entire vehicle design and development cycle (usually 4-5 years) is considered to be very long. Because the manufacturing of the headlight assembly is more complicated, and there are many other parts in contact with it, the headlight shape is slightly adjusted, and the shape and structural parameters of the entire front face/tail must be changed accordingly. Therefore, it is necessary to be cautious when designing. Once the shape is frozen, it is basically impossible to change it. In addition, lighting suppliers (Hella, etc.) are often relatively strong, especially when facing OEMs with few orders and weak technical integration capabilities. Therefore, car companies that can play with lights do need strong strength and technical background.

In terms of lights, Zhu Yuan talked about a counter-intuitive fact: the headlights of super sports cars are actually designed to be extremely simple. Because the order volume is too small, if the mold is specially opened for the order volume of these three melons, the high cost will make the super sports car company lose the bottom, so some of the headlight assemblies of the super sports car are even in the ready-made models. Pick in.

Yao Jilei Color and Line Design Manager

The appearance can be innovative, and radical and impactful visual effects can be used, but is the interior okay? Yes, but it is not necessary. The exterior styling is more to show the taste and character of the vehicle and the owner, but the owner does not buy a car for viewing at home, most of the time it is actually driving in the cockpit. Prolonged exposure to visually impactful interiors will bring psychological pressure to the occupants. On the other hand, the interior structure is highly ergonomic, and ease of use is the first element. The exterior styling can be a little bit fancy and exaggerated, because people do not sit outside and manipulate the vehicle.

The innovation of exterior styling is restricted by aesthetic trends, technology and regulations, and the interior also adds restrictions on people's usage habits. Based on this feature, it is more difficult for the interior to carry out major innovations than the exterior styling. Therefore, the Audi Q7 uses details to create its own special style in the interior.

Audi likes to use a strong industrial style to emphasize the sense of refinement in the use of metal texture parts in the interior. When talking about industrial style, many people often think of industrial style in the field of decoration. When they think of elements such as gray-toned cement and cold metal, they will feel that industrial style always has a rough feeling. In fact, what Audi uses is an industrial style that presents high-precision manufacturing, so that various components present “primitive” high-precision machining metal parts, emphasizing the level of mechanical craftsmanship.

However, human beings bred in a soft matrix naturally like softness. In driving, the cockpit is like a matrix. Only softness can give people a sense of comfort and security. The pursuit of softness and natural texture is a tradition that must be adhered to, but it does not mean that it cannot be flexible.

Audi’s fine mechanical craftsmanship looks cold, but what it gives is the beauty of industrial machinery, which is the same as those who like large-scale mechanical tools, because the cold, hard and polytechnic design style contains advanced human beings. The advanced industrial technology, high-tech, high-efficiency human creation conforms to the laws of natural science, and nature is beautiful.

to sum up:

When the first generation of Audi Q7 was born, Audi was still in the era of official cars. A considerable part of Audi Q7 was oriented to the official car and high-end commercial car market. Therefore, the design style naturally needs to meet the needs of these users, simple, atmospheric and comfortable enough inside. . In addition, the SUV models at that time were still not out of the category of off-road vehicles in the mainstream trend, so in terms of design, they had not deviated from the style of off-road vehicles, and emphasized the vigorous shape that emphasized the sense of strength.

Even in the era of private cars, the target user group of flagship SUVs will not be mainly young people or young families. The user age group is generally higher. For example, the user group of the BMW 7 Series in China is born in the 80s, with an average age of 38. year old. In other words, by 2020, the Audi Q7 user base is no longer the leader and entrepreneurs of the year, but the target is a new generation of social elites with the post-80s as the main body. Otherwise, there will not be a coupe SUV like the Audi Q8 as the brand's new flagship SUV.

Any designer has the desire to break through the tradition, but those who can break through, those who must stick to it, this has always been a subject that is difficult to have a constant standard. At least, we see from the Audi Q7 that the part about human needs must be adhered to. What's interesting is that the breakthrough point is precisely here. (Part of the pictures are from Wei Jiangpeng, the home of the network car)