Audi's chief designer tells Autocar the firm's cars will never have retro styling

Audi design chief Stefan Sielaff has said the firm will never design retro-looking cars, describing such a move as "dangerous".

Sielaff, speaking to Autocar during our exclusive studio shoot of the new Audi A7 Sportback, described the A7 as "a new niche and a new idea". He said it only referenced classic Audis such as the 100 Coupe with minor details and it was not a retro-inspired car.

Autocar asked Sielaff about the A7’s design and what to expect from future production Audis.

See Autocar's exclusive studio pics of the new Audi A7 Sportback

What are the origins of this car?

The A7 has been on the go for quite a long time, actually, because the idea was not on a [product] cycle plan. It was created by Walter de’Silva, I would say at least 
five years ago, and if the car is not planned from the very beginning then 
a little bit of time is consumed in convincing everybody that it could be 
an interesting product.

In any case, we had to the put the A7 on hold for a while because the strategy is a top-down strategy, so first we had to get the new A8 on the market, which happened this year. The next step is the A7, and then the step after this will be 
the A6. There is really a logic in the cycle plan — so the A7 had to wait until the A8 was on the market.

Is this a design-led project more than a market-led project, then?

Yes, definitely — as it was with the R8 and, many years ago, the TT. Walter was like one of the dogs looking for truffles, hunting for a new niche and a new 
idea. This is always part of our job as designers: to show things that are not 
in the portfolio.

Watch Autocar's exclusive video of the Audi A7 Sportback in the studio

What was the biggest challenge in taking the A7 from concept to production car?

We have to have pedestrian safety in the front but we wanted a very low, slim nose; that was tough. We also have a really big hatch in the rear; we had to work closely with engineers on the mountings and hinges for that, and also on headroom, and how you enter in the rear of the car.

The roofline was one of the biggest challenges. On such a big coupé you cannot say, “Okay, it’s fine in the back but only for two little people.” That won’t work. At least you have to have a certain amount of space for two grown-ups. But on the other side, we wanted to have this flowing roofline. We didn’t want a bulge or a bump at the rear hinges.

And you’ve referenced Audi’s 100 Coupé from 1970 in the rear treatment?

We only did it with this detail. I’m confident that when you look at the car, you’ll not give us the criticism that “Oh, you did a retro car.” Because this is 
what we really don’t want to do. It’s just 
a nice little game to integrate this idea from the 100 Coupé, and to relate to things in our heritage.

Can we expect to see more heritage references like this in future Audi models?

Well, you can reference other cars, as long as you are not over-exaggerating things. For example, the second-generation TT had to look like the TT again, despite the fact that the first TT was an icon. It was difficult enough, but it became possible. Everyone who saw the second-gen car said, “Okay, this is the new TT”, and that was the target.

But doing retro is a dangerous game, because you will always have the problem that as soon as you have done such a retro car, you have to think of the next generation, and the generation after that. What are you going to do? Because you can’t get out of it. It will always be close to what you have been doing before.

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Comments
43

28 July 2010

Audi: You have no history to do retro from! :p

28 July 2010

The big grille is very retro! Auto Union racer anyone?

I agree though, look at the 'new' Beetle.

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I'm The Ωmega Man, always talking to myself

28 July 2010

An interesting interview and viewpoint from Sielaff. And I agree with the previous poster that Audi (as Audi - not as Auto Union, Horch etc) does not have much to 'do' retro from. Leave it to the others as shown by his valid point about once you have done a retro car where does the second generation go? The Mini is a good case in point - visually Mark 1 and 2 are very similar overall.

28 July 2010

Ever since the smooth C3 100 range they seem bound to have to do this smooth 'low CD' concoction that is now wearing a bit thin. I reckon they could carry off a four square headlamp arrangement with aplomb, but no, more and more products all stuck with the same design language and always seemingly in a silver launch colour. Where to next guys?

28 July 2010

[quote Autocar]described the A7 as "a new niche and a new idea".[/quote]

[quote Autocar]Audi design chief Stefan Sielaff has said the firm will never design retro-looking cars, describing such a move as "dangerous".[/quote]

At least we know who is responsible for the extremely safe and uninspiring design at Audi!!

I hated the design of cars like the old 5 and 7 series BMW but at least they where trying to be bold and inventive..

Audi are just bland and boring,Porsche design of "new models"in the past 5-7 years have been the exact same,with only the odd exception.

A7 as "a new niche and a new idea". I think he is actually serious buy saying this..lets make a car that looks exactly like the A5 but make it slightly bigger with the exact same engines.

28 July 2010

i dont care if they do retro or not, but showing some imagination in design, instead of just doing conservative designs and adding bling afterwards, would interest me more

28 July 2010

Yes why would anyone go for a retro MINI or Fiat 500 over their ugly little car who's name I can't even remember? Oh wait..... It's not about whether Retro is good or bad. It's about whether a car excites. So for example Jaguar XJ = bold and exciting, Porsche 911 = classic. Audi little over priced wart with no style = dull and pointless.

28 July 2010

BMW and Audi both seem to be stuck in the mind that everything must look bland and the same........... Not for me.

If anything though, I would say that Mini is the best example of how retro can work. A design that has remained fresh for a long time and has spawned several other models following a similar theme.....

Surely better than a bland foregttable design that has to be refreshed every couple of years just to keep it interesteing?

28 July 2010

They don't need to do retro while they still have the A3 (more or less the same since first introduced in '96)...


28 July 2010

I fail to understand why the headline reads "Audi: 'We'll never do retro' " when Audi's design chief isn't even quoted saying the word "never" in that interview. Not once.

Surely a more appropiate and accurate headline would be:

Audi: 'retro is dangerous'

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