15 years ago I didn't know much about driving, but I did know about perceived and production quality. And I loved Audis.

OK, the average Audi 80 handled like it had 300lbs of lead in the front bumper. But just feel the door handle, listen to the sound of the door shut, and push those dash switches.

Of course the Audi quality standards were much copied during the late 1990s, especially when Ferdinand Piech (who had driven the standards up as Audi boss) took over at VW and created cars such as the Golf 4 and Passat.

Indeed, in the late 1980s Audi actually ran ads just detailing the complexity of its beautiful and expensive boot hinge design. And if you appreciated engineering, every time you the boot of an Audi it was impossible to avoid an admiring glance at the way the hinge was packaged into such a small space.

This week I lifted the boot of the new A4. After a lifespan of 22 years (they arrived in 1986 in the 80), the parallelogram hinges are gone, replaced with crude, curved bent tubes.

Worse still, engineers have had to rob space from the boot to enclose these new hinges because otherwise they would crush your luggage as the boot lid is shut.

The death of the Audi boot hinge is a landmark event. It shows that the costs of building cars in Western Europe is getting so high, production and perceived quality may have now passed its peak.