Marc Lichte

“Emotionality is passion”
Audi Head of Design Marc Lichte talks about how the design of the Audi Q8 concept shapes its character and why these times are so exciting for automotive designers.
drive

Mr. Lichte, you set a milestone in Audi design in 2014 with the Prologue study. How do you translate this expressive design language into a full-size SUV like the Audi Q8 concept?
Lichte: When I came to Audi two and a half years ago, the first thing I did was work out a design strategy with my team, with the principle focus not only on the ongoing development of the design language but also on differentiation between the models. Here in the Audi Q8 concept, the waistline is very lean and the muscles extremely powerfully defined. That’s quattro®, that’s what we are, that’s what makes the car sporty!
 
The entire greenhouse is very low—why?
Lichte: There has long been a cast-iron rule in the auto industry that a performance SUV should have a coupe-like dropping roofline—with the disadvantage that the interior functionality is restricted. We have broken this rule and instead created a roofline that is very flat overall. It starts at the front, then runs horizontally rearward and ends with a contrasting, sharply angled, fast C-pillar. This makes the side line extremely sporty without restricting headroom. And the deep contouring underneath the doors makes the body panels visually leaner and lighter.
 
At the front end, we see a new variant of the Singleframe® grille …
Lichte: The octagonal grille is a feature that differentiates not just the Audi Q8 concept markedly from the A models. All future Q models will have it. The new face works really well; it’s a mark of its very distinctive character.
  
The mask of the Singleframe® is less pronounced than on the current Q models.
Lichte: The frame causes the headlamps to merge visually with the grille. You can glean quite a lot from the show car’s equipment. The Audi Q8 concept has laser high beams, which will be recognizable in the future by a signature blue X. This is also a plug-in hybrid for its part, recognizable front and rear by the e-tron® light signature.

At the rear end, the single band of light gives the impression of breadth. It’s an identifying feature that all our top-of-the-line vehicles will have in the future. And it gives us the chance to create distinctive lighting effects when the doors are unlocked and on leaving the car.
What other exterior details do you particularly like?
Lichte: The Q8 concept incorporates several references to Audi’s heritage. The upright air vents on the left and right of the rear end come from the IMSA GTO race car from the early ’90s. The broad, sharply angled C-pillars and the flat air intakes beneath the hood are evocative of the Ur Quattro, as is the bezel beneath the band of light.

We can create extremely fine differentiation here with the choice of materials, from body color through to Carbon, similar to the Singleframe®. The sills are made from brushed Aluminum. It’s a material that runs around the entire car and gives it a certain off-road touch—rough but premium at the same time.
 
Inside the Audi Q8 concept, the dashboard architecture is completely new. What are the fundamental principles behind this?
Lichte: We developed an entirely new operating concept for the Prologue Concept, which replaces the rotary/push control with a touch display. We’re successively introducing this into series production so that, ultimately, each Audi will have its own distinctive character in the cockpit, too.
“We opted for a highly ‘technoid’ look, using Carbon and brushed Aluminum applications as a mark of robustness.”
What is the character here in this show car?
Lichte: The interior of the Q8 concept has a very powerful and sculptural design, which is intentionally not as horizontal as in the Audi Prologue. As is the case for the forthcoming models, the displays are integrated almost invisibly into the black-panel visual of the dashboard.

There are very few stitches clustered around the displays, which is why it was important to convey the premium quality through the materials. We opted for a highly “technoid” look, using Carbon and brushed Aluminum applications as a mark of robustness.
“I’m constantly moving around between the years 2020 and 2030 and presenting our concepts to the board at a relatively early stage.”

Mr. Lichte, emotionality is one of Audi’s core values. How do you define that in automotive design?
Lichte: As passion—as the motivation of simply wanting to have a particular car. We want to keep selling sporty cars. And we’re developing all-electric vehicles which will change considerably from what they are today. We’ll see different proportions and new interior concepts. This paradigm shift puts us in a hugely fascinating time right now—particularly for an automotive designer.
 
How quickly can you inspire enthusiasm among Audi customers for this new character of electric cars?
Lichte: We’re doing it step by step. Our aim is to shape the transition to e-mobility in a way that retains the core identity of the brand and that doesn’t make cars with internal combustion engines suddenly look old.
 
What is the role played by Audi Design as the company’s engine?
Lichte: We designers live permanently in the future. I’m constantly moving around between the years 2020 and 2030 and presenting our concepts to the board at a relatively early stage. To a certain extent, that does indeed make us an engine that drives the company.
From “Dialoge”, Audi AG