Audi concept hints at small crossover

Audi's Detroit auto show concept (pictured) has a development of the brand's design language. Audi says it has a sculptured, clear design, a coupe-like rear, short overhangs and a low roof line.
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Audi has released design sketches for a subcompact crossover concept that it plans to unveil at the Detroit auto show next month, giving another hint of the automaker’s ideas for the smaller end of its growing crossover lineup.

Audi announced earlier last week that it plans to start selling a small, four-door crossover called the Q1 in 2016, competing with high-riding subcompacts such as the Mini Countryman and the Nissan Juke.

But the images that Audi released for the Q1 depict a vehicle with four doors, while the sketches of the Detroit auto show concept show a vehicle with only two, suggesting that the look of Audi’s small crossover family is not yet set in stone.

“The show car is a systematic development of the Audi design language,” Audi said in a statement. “It combines a host of visual elements from future sports car models with the Audi-typical allroad concept and independent ‘shooting brake’ body form.”

There are a number of potential Audi models that could draw upon the Detroit concept. One would be an allroad version of the Audi A1, a Mini Cooper competitor that launched in Europe in 2010 and is due for a redesign around 2016 or 2017. Such a car has been rumored since the A1 first went on sale.

The concept could also influence the design of the Q1, or be spun off into a coupe-like version called the Q2, just as Audi’s A5 coupe is one step up from its A4 sedan.

Audi's Detroit show car has a powerful road stance.

Crafting a crossover strategy is one of the top priorities for Audi, which aims to get 30 percent of its global sales from its Q lineup by 2020, up from 25 percent last year. Models from the Q1 up to the Q8 have been discussed, with the smaller models seen as key to Audi’s sales volume goals and conquests of other brands’ buyers.

“Entry models bring in many customers who are new to the brand. They also help to keep the brand young,” Audi CEO Rupert Stadler said in an interview published in Automotive News Europe's current e-magazine.

“For example, 75 percent of all A1s sold are conquest sales. We have similar expectations for a Q model below the Q3, which is due to arrive in a couple of years."

The concept is 4200mm long (13.78 feet).

The interior of Audi's show car.

Aside from giving a hint at Audi’s crossover plans, the images released last Thursday serve a second purpose: they show that despite the departures of two top Audi designers, the automaker has plenty of ideas it deems worthy of putting on display.

Audi chief designer Wolfgang Egger is moving to Italdesign Giugiaro, the design shop owned by Audi parent Volkswagen Group, and is being replaced by senior VW designer Marc Lichte, Automobilwoche, a sister publication of Automotive News Europe, reported this week. Meanwhile, Achim Badstuebner, the exterior design chief at Audi, is departing to lead Mercedes-Benz exterior design starting on Jan. 1.

You can reach Gabe Nelson at gnelson@crain.com.

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