Audi has made it clear that there’s a fine line between youthful design and creating cars that older people will buy to feel young, and it’s something the company is clearly wary of.
There have been examples of this phenomenon in recent years from mainstream brands: the Kia Soul was big with pensioners because of its higher seating position and affordable pricing, not to mention the funky decals and paint options available, while the Toyota Rukus was another that, due to it being a Toyota, was more compelling to conservative older buyers than the younger demographic the company was chasing.
Audi has its own youthful model, the new Q2, which only went on sale in Australia a couple of weeks ago. That car is labelled by its maker as being: “youthful and provocative in its styling”; “rugged and youthful”; “young and assertive”… you get the picture.
Oh, and “at first glance the Q2 already shows its muscles – with broad shoulders and angular styling, it is brimming with energy and confidence”.
So there’s something to be said for the whole ‘youth’ angle being at play here, and Andreas Mindt, head of Audi design exterior, said that design is driven by the buyer base.
“There is a younger customer for Q2 and they accept more playful design,” he said.
“When you look at the Q2, it’s a very crazy design theme. This is a really bold theme, but it works only for younger customers. The grown-up ones want only to have more elegant cars – the bigger you go, the more elegant and subtle to work it out.
“This is one of the points where you can differentiate one segment from the other: you have to take a look at the customers,” he said.
But, Mindt said, being different to the rest of the range can mean that the intended target might not be hit.
“You have to watch out, because sometimes, let’s say the ‘older customer’ wants to look young. Very often they buy stuff that makes them younger. This is very interesting to see,” Mindt said.
“Very often they want to make themselves feel and look younger, which I like, I have to say. The older people 20 years ago were not like them nowadays. Sometimes they’ll wear the big fancy shirt, while younger ones are a little bit shyer, and you have to take a look: sometimes young people need to look serious.
“When you go to a new company or an interview – you don’t go there with your crazy car; you go there with your sedan, which looks serious, in a serious colour, and it makes you look more serious,” he said.
Indeed, Mindt said that there are relatively conservatively styled models that are appealing to younger buyers for that very reason – they don’t look youth-focused.
“This is what younger customers sometimes are looking for: the A3 sedan is very successful among these people, because it makes you look serious. You need to know that to make it fit for the customer, and this is changing,” he said.
Mindt said the Q2 is, at this point at least, appealing to a mix of different buyers.
“It’s sold out at the moment. We have a good mixture of all the generations, but it’s sold out completely,” he said.
Audi Australia product communications manager Shaun Cleary said the new Q2 is following a similar trajectory locally.
“In Australia our dealers are saying there’s a really broad mix,” Cleary said. “We had 700 orders before the car officially went on sale, and they’re saying younger people, older people, families – it’s a real cross-section.”