Audi A1 roll offers PR advice

Audi has shown the perils of great-on-paper ideas that go wrong in a marketing stunt that by rights should have you squirming.

As the news report explains, the idea was to demonstrate the skateboard-like maneuverability of the A1, by (ahem) driving it up a half-pipe. Lordy: alarm bells should rightly have rung.

Instead, they were silent, and it was approved. This wasn’t just some guerilla marketing idea, either, because the huge ‘half-pipe’ that was built can’t have come cheap.

Ding: the images show the inevitable. Question I had was, how did nobody not spot it? Could an engineer, if they’d been asked, told them in Lord’s name not to? I thus asked my pal Damian Harty, of Prodrive fame.

His passionate response suggests that, indeed, engineers should have been contacted. Even if not before, just by looking at the forces at work in the first images should’ve warned them off. Cars are not designed to do that!

Here’s where it gets interesting. Damian pointed me to US firm McHenry Software, and a software model they designed in the 1970s. This was cutting edge stuff, and still idolised by car dynamics engineers as a mighty achievement.

Below, there’s a jump to a video. It’s amazing, when you consider this wasn’t trial and error, but all mathematically modeled on computers with, I guess, valves the size of trees.

What it proves, though, is that car behaviour in these circumstances is predictable. If the right person had’ve been asked, they could have saved the negative column inches, and asked for but a Cadbury’s Twirl by way of gratitude.

Top tip: embrace the engineers. They’ll always tell you. Direct? Arrow-eye-knockout-straight…

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