For such a secretive fortress of ideas, the Audi Design Center is housed in a surprisingly transparent glass structure where collaboration is encouraged across all five floors. Head of design Marc Lichte gives us an exclusive tour, taking us into the future with a peek at Audi’s new e-tron GT* and revealing how Audi is shaping premium mobility.
Marc Lichte joined Audi as head designer in 2014. One of his first tasks was to create a new home for the top-secret design department at Audi HQ in Ingolstadt, one that would inspire and facilitate great design. The ensuing collaboration with German architecture firm GMP reflects the brand’s design values.
Design sits at the heart of the Audi philosophy and, in facing the challenges of creating cars for tomorrow, Audi is developing its vision of the future. Combining technology and design, Lichte and his team are creating an enduring masterplan in their approach to premium mobility.
Electric and autonomous mobility are driving the revolution in car design. The Audi design team is at the forefront of this new era, creating cutting-edge solutions to meet the needs of the contemporary driver. Where once they would design a vehicle from the outside in, the design department now starts the process by considering the interior space and user interface before turning to the exterior design.
Audi’s design philosophy has shifted from simply creating beautiful, high-performance vehicles to considering the holistic driving experience. That philosophy not only propels us from A to B but acknowledges that the future is plotted from A to Z.
What does being head of design mean at Audi?
I’m responsible for everything with an Audi badge on it: exterior and interior design, colour and trim, human-machine interface, race cars, all the graphics for the race cars, everything. It’s a dream. We have 450 colleagues here in Ingolstadt. And then there are some in Malibu and Beijing so we can pick up the trends from California and China.
How do you describe Audi design?
The reason I wanted to be an Audi designer is because it is very progressive. To design the future, you have to know the past. Over the past 25 years, Audi made bold, progressive decisions. More than 30 years ago, for example, Mr Piëch [the legendary automotive engineer] decided that four-wheel was better than rear-wheel drive with the quattro. This was revolutionary. Everyone at Audi is driven by progress and technology; everybody challenges themselves to come up with radical new ideas. I love this spirit and that’s the reason that I’m here.
“I’ve never designed a car like the e-tron GT*. For me, it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”
What can we expect from the design of Audi’s new e-tron GT*?
I have designed more than 100 cars in total at VW and Audi with my team but I’ve never designed a car like the e-tron GT*. For me, it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to design a fully electric car like the e-tron GT*. This brand-shaper is a supercar because it has the proportions of a sports car – it is very low and wide – but combined with the usability of a four-seater. It is completely new in terms of design aesthetic – there is no big engine; there is an electric motor. And aerodynamics are important. That’s why we designed this car in a wind tunnel. The e-tron GT* will introduce the next step in Audi’s design language.
Further information on official fuel consumption figures and the official specific CO₂ emissions of new passenger cars can be found in the guide “Information on the fuel consumption, CO₂ emissions and electricity consumption of new cars”, which is available free of charge at all sales dealerships and from DAT Deutsche Automobil Treuhand GmbH, Hellmuth-Hirth-Strasse 1, 73760 Ostfildern-Scharnhausen, Germany (www.dat.de).
Audi e-tron GT quattro: Power consumption, combined*: 19.6–18.8 kWh/100km (NEDC); 21.6–19.9 kWh/100km (WLTP)CO₂ emissions, combined*: 0 g/km
The vehicle illustrated above is a prototype that is not available as a production model.