Audi virtual showroom.automotiveIT

Audi buyers can digitally inspect the brand’s entire lineup in a new virtual showroom in London (Photo: Audi)

Audi inaugurated a virtual showroom in downtown London and promised to open more than 20 similar outlets worldwide by 2015.

The so-called Audi City concept lets Audi show and sell cars in attractive city-center locations without having to spend money on large and expensive buildings. Audi City will also play a "crucial" role in marketing new mobility services and electric models, the company said.

The idea of virtual showrooms has been around for several years, with networking specialist Cisco and other technology companies offering digital dealership concepts that could help reduce the high costs of real estate in central locations. But dealers and automakers have been reluctant to embrace the concept, mostly because customers still want to see and experience the physical car before they buy it.

In Audi's virtual showroom near Piccadilly Circus in central London, the premium brand is showing its entire model line-up digitally in a relatively small space.

Visitors can digitally configure vehicles and see the results in realistic 1:1 scale on screens that almost fill the entire space. Using virtual technology, Audi also uses the showroom to explain technical innovations in areas such as drivetrain, bodyshell or lighting.

"Audi City combines the best of two worlds ”“ digital product presentation and personal contact with the dealer," said Peter Schwarzenbauer, head of sales and marketing of the Volkswagen Group premium brand.

He added in a press release that the virtual showrooms, through their locations and the use of new technologies, will bring the brand closer to its customers and thus improve customer relations.

Said Schwarzenbauer: "With Audi City, we are creating a one-stop-shop for experiencing our brand. It is right in the midst of our customers’ lives, yet seamlessly connected to the online range offered by the four rings."