“If you want to define something, you have already begun to set boundaries. Innovation and limitation are two different things.”
As the senior director of Audi’s Chinese brand and digital business, Boris Meiners understands the innovation of “Audi Innovation Lab”. In his view, Audi’s innovation is “almost crazy”, completely open, without restrictions.
As one of the oldest German luxury car brands, Audi has a long history of innovation genes.
In 1899, August Horch founded Horch, which was positioned to produce top luxury cars. In 1909, Horch left the company where he worked and founded “Audi”. Horch means “listening” in German and is pronounced “Audi” in Latin.
Horch is not only the founder of Audi, but also one of the pioneers of the German automotive industry. His bones are infiltrated with the genes of technological innovators. For example, in Germany, Horch was the first to use cast aluminum technology for the manufacture of automobile engines and gearbox shells, the manufacture of universal shafts and high-strength steel gears for power transmission components.
In the first-line luxury car brand BBA (Benz, BMW, Audi) camp, Audi has its own unique innovation advantages. Unlike Mercedes-Benz’s luxury and BMW’s innovative trajectory, Audi relies on technology to drive it from beginning to end.
Just like its brand concept “Vorsprung durch Technik”, Audi has been “breaking through technology and enlightening the future”, and China is its “new” battlefield of innovation.
As a car brand that has entered the Chinese market for 30 years, we hope to support local start-ups and innovators and provide them with the opportunity to establish connections with large companies. At the same time, we can also use external innovation ideas to inspire innovation within Audi.
An excellent opportunity for innovators
Audi has been in the Chinese market for more than 30 years.
In 1988, Audi and China FAW Group Co., Ltd. officially signed the “Technology Transfer License for FAW Production Audi” and began trial production of the Audi 100 model. This is the first luxury car technology transfer contract in Chinese history.
For more than 30 years, the automobile industry has undergone unprecedented changes. New technologies and new trends such as electrification, intelligence, and sharing have pushed the automobile industry into a new era. During this period, Audi not only witnessed a new wave of technology in China, but also changed from an exporter of innovative technology to an explorer of innovative technology, constantly looking for high-quality entrepreneurs to cooperate with.
“Imagine if you had just started a business and wanted to connect with Audi, who would you call?”
In an interview with Chuangyebang, Bo Rui stated that giving all innovators an entrance to put their innovative ideas into application is the original intention of Audi to establish an innovation laboratory. It can be said that “Audi Innovation Lab” is one of the best results of their innovation and reform in China.
Since 2013, Audi has been holding the “Audi Innovation Lab” competition in China, supporting breakthrough ideas, supporting innovative enterprises, hoping to provide innovative enterprises with technical support and open service platforms to promote innovators and Audi and other In-depth exchanges with well-known investment institutions. The selected innovation projects have the opportunity to obtain funding and technical support on the one hand, and on the other hand they can integrate with Audi’s actual business and try to explore new business models.
“As a car brand that has entered the Chinese market for more than 30 years, we hope to support local start-ups and innovators and provide them with the opportunity to establish connections with large companies. At the same time, we can also use external innovation ideas to inspire innovation within Audi.”
So far, the “Audi Innovation Lab” contest has received more than 7,000 applications, many of which have entered the stage of application.
In Bo Rui’s view, the biggest feature of the “Audi Innovation Lab” is openness, “we are very open to all innovative ideas, almost crazy.” Innovation cannot only be considered from the company’s center level, but from local needs and user needs.
For Audi, the opinions of local partners are very important. They are an important part of the evaluation of the “Audi Innovation Lab” competition project. Direct feedback through evaluation is an important point for Audi to obtain information.
Once people see what they want to change, they will change it overnight. Such speed and enthusiasm can only happen in China. We have seen this in many solutions, which is what I really like and is the reason for bringing innovation to the Chinese market.
In addition, Audi has also established a user research platform for more than 1,000 people in the “Audi Innovation Circle”. All the participants are luxury car owners and potential users. Through this platform, Audi can directly hear the user’s voice. “Let users participate in the project evaluation, you can see how innovation will affect users at the earliest.” Bo Rui said.
Listen to all the ideas and then evaluate how to integrate them into the business. This is the “complete opening” of the “Audi Innovation Lab”.
Root in China, serve China
“In China, For China.” Bo Rui described Audi’s innovation strategy in China.
Why is China?
“We must admit that China’s innovation is absolutely ahead. We listen very carefully to what is happening here, and then evaluate when and how to land globally.” Bo Rui believes that in some areas of innovation, China is now ahead of the West For about 10 years, in the fields of face recognition and digital payment, the European market has not yet become popular, and these technologies and applications are more advanced in China.
Compared with the rest of the world, China’s innovation rate is also impressive. This is Bo Rui’s greatest feeling.
“Once people see something and want to change it, they will change it overnight. Such speed and enthusiasm can only happen in China. We have seen this in many solutions, which is what I really like, It is also the reason for bringing innovation to the Chinese market.” Bo Rui said in an interview with Chuangyebang.
The particularity of the Chinese market has driven Audi’s local innovation in China.
As the world’s largest single car market, China’s car consumption demand is very different from the rest of the world. In terms of age, Chinese users are on average 20 years younger than European users, the average age of European car consumer users is about 50 years old, and the average age of Chinese car consumer users is about 30 years old.
For multinational companies, there are two solutions for operating locally, one is to build from scratch, and the other is to cooperate with industry leading companies. Audi chose the latter, in the development of the Chinese market, through cooperation with local companies to achieve a win-win situation.
In 2016, Audi signed a three-party cooperation memorandum with Ali, Baidu, and Tencent to promote the integration of the automotive industry and the Internet industry around the fields of big data mining, e-commerce ecosystem, automotive Internet finance, Internet of Vehicles platform, and urban intelligent transportation. In 2018, Audi and Huawei announced the joint development of 5G connected cars to promote the development of automotive autonomous driving and digital services.
In the field of automobile manufacturing, Audi’s technical and capital strength is undoubted, but in the fields of intelligent interconnection, wireless communication and 5G, Audi cannot compete with industry-leading companies such as Ali, Baidu, Tencent and Huawei. By cooperating with these companies for technology complementation, Audi can more easily achieve the leap in the 5G era and directly open up the smart Internet market.
“We have been in the Chinese market for more than 30 years. Alibaba and Huawei are recognized as leading companies in China. They are also working hard to innovate as we are, so we are very suitable for cooperation. Our ultimate goal is to create better Solutions to create value for our customers.” Bo Rui said.
For Audi, the importance of the Chinese market is self-evident. Judging from the financial report it released, Audi’s global sales in 2019 were 18.456 million, and its annual sales in China exceeded 690,000. Audi sales in China accounted for 37% of its global sales.
As a multinational company, focusing on innovation in the Chinese market also poses some challenges for Audi.
“The difficulty we face is that most of the third-party ecosystems in China currently only focus on the Chinese market, and most of the digital solutions only focus on the Chinese market, which means that we have to bring the solutions we developed in China to the world. It’s not that easy elsewhere. If we want to launch this product in any market in the Western world tomorrow, we will almost start from scratch.”
However, as Audi’s largest market in the world, China is worth bringing innovation here and training the world’s largest number of users.
“Just as the sun rises from the east, so does innovation. It starts with China and then moves to the Western world. China will have more and larger innovations in the future.” Bo Rui said in an interview with Chuangyebang.
We want to provide customers with a journey to enjoy. Everything looks very advanced and advanced, and it is very simple to use. This is an important area we are currently studying.
Bo Rui, senior director of Audi China’s brand and digital business. Boris MeinersIn China, For China
How to stand on top of technology wave
As a century-old automobile brand, how to continue to stand on the top of the technology wave is the biggest problem Audi has to solve.
“In German, technik not only refers to the technology itself, but also a way of doing things. Both of these points are also rooted in the DNA of our company.” In an interview with Chuangbang, Bo Rui said that Audi has been pursuing two things. One is To provide users with the most cutting-edge technology applications, the second is to find new tools to implement new applications.
According to Bo Rui, Audi is currently focusing on four major innovation areas: design innovation, electric vehicles, digital services and continuous user experience.
“We want to provide customers with a journey to enjoy, everything looks very advanced, very advanced, and very simple to use, this is an important area we are currently studying.” Bo Rui said that design innovation includes not only automotive products , Also includes digital interfaces, such as websites, applications, etc., involving the entire digital touchpoint.
Electric vehicles and sustainable development are the second major innovation areas that Audi focuses on.
In 2019, Audi launched the first pure electric SUV “Audi e-tron” in China, and also debuted the first domestic Audi pure electric product “Audi Q2L e-tron. The former represents Audi’s high-end products in the pure electric field, while the latter is the first market exploration of luxury brands in the field of electrification, both of which are to take the lead in completing the market layout in small pure electric SUVs.
In addition to actual cars, Audi is also focusing on the theme of sustainability. “We not only have zero emissions, we are also studying how to use recyclable materials. Instead of using fresh raw materials, we recycle old materials and bring them back to the value chain.” Bo Rui told Chuangyebang that it is their responsibility to help this planet become better.
Audi’s third largest innovation area is “digital services”.
At CES Asia 2019, Audi showcased a new generation of connect technology, which is the first open App ecosystem for Chinese users. On this Android-based platform, third-party developers can create tailor-made services and applications for Audi Multimedia Interaction System (MMI).
When the driver no longer needs to drive in the future, but becomes a passenger, there will be more time to do other things. 5G and augmented reality technology will bring more new experiences to passengers.
The Audi App Store provides the most popular local applications and services, including finding gas stations, smart payment in the car at gas stations, and online secret-free parking fees. Users can use these services without a smartphone.
“The last most important area we want to study is what we call continuous customer experience. Through user behavior, we can deeply explore user needs and truly understand their interests, so as to improve the driving experience.”
Bo Rui said that Audi is researching e-commerce solutions to sell products, cars and mobile services that are open to cooperation with third parties, while also preparing for the upcoming autonomous driving scenario.
Focusing on electric and digital design and continuous customer experience, Audi will redefine the driving experience and continue to lead innovation.
The “new” battlefield of the future
Since the establishment of the Innovation Lab in 2013, Audi has been innovating in China for seven years.
Through the “Audi Innovation Lab” competition, Audi has established a deep relationship with Chinese innovators. Last year, in addition to the winners, the top ten projects will be invited to further develop the final product. As long as the technology meets the standards, it can be released in Audi’s App Store.
“This is the last step we are doing. Some services will soon appear on the car and in the App Store. We provide platforms and screens, and they provide actual services. This is our way of cooperation.” Cooperation with innovative projects.
In the next 3 to 5 years, the automotive industry will undergo dramatic changes, and Audi will occupy a huge advantage.
On the one hand, Audi continuously establishes cooperative relations with top companies in various fields to achieve mutual benefit; on the other hand, Audi starts to play the role of platform provider in the automotive industry, and constantly gathers innovative projects and entrepreneurial talents. Once these new technologies come into play, Audi has the advantage of innovating in various fields, which will help Audi to a whole new level in the future.
For Audi, in the next 30 years in China, the field of electrification and intelligence are two important battlefields.
In the field of electrification, Audi took the first step 30 years ago. In the autumn of 1989, at the Frankfurt Motor Show in Germany, Audi launched a concept car called “Audi Duo”. This car has two driving methods, which can be driven by both an internal combustion engine and an electric motor.
Lu Yi, Executive Vice President of Audi China, has publicly stated that Audi will insist on the development of electrification. By 2021, nine new energy models will be launched in the Chinese market, of which more than 50% are pure electric models, and the other models are plug-in hybrid Powered models.
According to public information, Audi plans to launch about 30 electric models by 2025, and the proportion of new energy vehicle sales will increase from the current 3.5% to about 40%. By 2024, Audi will invest about 12 billion euros in advance to promote electrification transformation.
In addition to electrification, autonomous driving and 5G technology will also have a huge impact on the automotive industry.
With the development of 5G technology, data will be transmitted at a faster speed and on a larger scale. The vehicle automatic driving system will exchange data with infrastructure and other vehicles at a faster speed and respond quickly.
When the driver no longer needs to drive in the future, but becomes a passenger, there will be more time to do other things, and 5G and augmented reality technology will bring more new experiences to passengers.
During the 2019 CES Asia, Audi has unveiled in-vehicle virtual reality technology.
This technology was originally developed by Audi, and later commercialized by the startup company Holoride. By matching vehicle data points and virtual reality content in real time, creating a new form of in-car entertainment for passengers, allowing games or educational experiences to achieve a deep sense of substitution, and creating an immersive experience for passengers.
In Bo Rui’s description, the future driving will become an exciting experience. People can drive through Beijing to experience the traffic, wear VR glasses for time travel, or go back in time through time and space What it looked like years ago, or travel to the future, and experience the city 50 years later.
“We will redefine the car.” Bo Rui finally said.