Peter Anderson | Jul 17, 2012

Audi has dreamt up a creative response to rising city centre rents: removing the cars from the dealership.

The new Audi City concept dealerships are small spaces packed with technology, rather than sprawling showroom floors full of actual cars.

The first Audi City opened in London yesterday near famous Piccadilly Circus. Audi says it's the first of twenty that will be opened in the centres of busy cities.

The City stores will be staffed by a Customer Relationship Manager as well as product experts to present Audi's model range and customisation options to customers, via car-sized screens.

"Audi City combines the best of two worlds - digital product presentation and personal contact with the dealer,” Audi's Peter Schwarzenbauer said.

"This new retail format brings us even closer to our customers - geographically, of course, but first and foremost in terms of the quality of our relationship. Audi City offers new freedom for tailor-made services and an even more individual contact with the customer."

Not all Audi City shops will be car-free, but the new approach means that where space is a problem, the dealership will need only a few cars to lure people in before laying on the digital experience.

Interested customers will then be directed to a 'normal' dealership where they can take the next step in their new-car purchase: a test drive.

The concept allows visitors to see all the options available on a large screen, which will display the cars at full scale.

Colours, wheels, trim levels, all variations will be available for viewing, so the customer will know exactly how any given Audi will look.

The idea of a centrally-located concept store isn't new. Paris has the BMW Brand Store, along with Citroen, Mercedes-Benz, Peugeot, Toyota and Renault stores, all in one stretch on the Champs Elysees.

Lotus has a high-end boutique in Monaco, and London is already home to BMW's i Store - which will evolve into a support centre for BMW's electric i-branded cars - and there is also the Ferrari store across the road from Hamley's on Regent Street.

Audi City, however, is more about researching a car rather than buying a t-shirt or a Peugeot pepper grinder. Stay tuned for news of any Australian plans.

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