Audi is using a new paint process called “partial matting.” Basically, a “fine beam” can blast pixel accurate matte images, logos and letters onto painted sheet metal. Audi debuted this on a special edition of the R8. But, now, with an “automated and greatly accelerated” process, Audi can use it for volume production. A special edition of the Audi Q2 will have a matte pattern on the D-pillar.
The exciting part is the potential for customization. In theory, Audi can put an image of whatever the customer wants, a tattoo for the motor vehicle. The “Audi Exclusive” customer, because a bog standard six-figure sports car is not exclusive enough, will have this option on the R8. Footballers and young petrol-princes buying that car will have a blast, literally and figuratively. But, is it a good idea?
It’s easy to ride down the slippery slope here. Such custom painting could become “a thing.” Other manufacturers may emulate it. The practice may even trickle down to vehicles mortals can afford. We’ve seen what havoc a little freedom of expression has wrought with the vanity plate. Picture that but without constraints and more prominent billing. Every crossover bombarding you with horrible puns, hashtags, emojis, memes, Instagram handles, teenagers with poignant song lyrics, assertions it is “Jon’s Audi,” and the odd bit of shrill political commentary. It would be a small dollop of social media brought to the one place you can get away from it.
The automobile remains, for the most part, a clean visual space. People do dumb things to customize their cars. But, forcing them to do so in the aftermarket eliminates many rash impulses. That little bit of effort is a crucial barrier between us and aesthetic pandemonium. Inviting customers to “stay individual, stay experienced,” Audi risks dismantling it.
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