The flagship Audi dealership that controversially hosted a raunchy car photoshoot involving Strictly Come Dancing’s Darcey Bussell in a low-cut leather micro-skirt and boots ensemble is to close after nearly two decades.
The upmarket showroom opposite the Ritz in London’s Mayfair has been the scene of many celebrity launches and star-studded parties for the German car-maker, with guests including actors Anna Friel, Sheridan Smith, Phil Glenister, and comedy impersonator Rory Bremner.
Set in a prime upmarket location in Piccadilly, it opened two decades ago as the ‘Audi Forum’ before rebranding five years ago in 2013 as ‘Audi City’ – billed as the digital ‘showroom of the future’ designed to help change the face of car sales and promote more online purchases.
Speaking last week, Audi said it has now ‘successfully served its purpose’.
Strictly in leather: Darcey Bussell, the Royal Ballet’s then principal ballerina, controversially posed with an Audi A8 wearing a raunchy leather dress back in October 2002
Most controversially, it was the scene in October 2002, of a risqué photoshoot involving the Royal Ballet’s then principal ballerina Darcey Bussell – in her pre ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ days – wearing a revealingly short black leather skirt and low-cut bodice creation by fashion designer Scott Henshall, with a ‘four-ring’ Audi belt and knee high boots with stiletto heels.
Significantly, her costume was made out of the same type of leather used in the interior of the then new flagship Audi A8 Quattro she was helping to launch, ahead of its official unveiling at the British Motor Show in Birmingham the following day.
She was photographed with the car in various poses, including draped across the bonnet.
But a balletically elegant twirl ended up revealing more of Darcey’s well-tone physique than was planned for at the time – much to the delight of the photographers on hand – creating one of the biggest publicity coups enjoyed by Audi for many years.
The Daily Telegraph intoned at the time: ’So motoring meets high culture, a British ballerina poses in skimp leather next to a £55,000 German car the day before press day at the British Motor Show. Is this political? Is it dignified? Is it a feminist issue.’
It noted: ’Bonnet draping, however unintentional, whether now or in the Sixties’ has always been a pretty down-market way of drawing attention to yourself.’
And it added: ’This is not the Sixties. It’s 2002 and Darcey Bussell is a working ballerina….. not a resting actress or ‘twit’ girl.’
The upmarket showroom is located opposite the Ritz in London’s Mayfair. It’s been the scene of many celebrity launches and star-studded parties for the German car-maker in the past
The photoshoot was slammed by the Daily Telegraph when images emerged ahead of the 2002 British Motor Show
Audi’s PR chief Jon Zammett, who is due to retire this month after nearly two decades building the Audi brand in Britain, dreamed up the Darcey photoshoot idea.
Speaking at the time, he said: ‘It was a bit unfortunate that she did that twirl. We didn’t want it to come out in an unseemly way. But we think that generally Darcey is a very Audi kind of person. She has driven one since 1996.’
He noted of their ‘Vorsprung durch Darcy’ moment: ‘We would like to think we didn’t quite stoop to bonnet draping although she did lean on the front of the Audi for a moment.’
But he added: ’It was the biggest piece of coverage in the nationals as a whole that Audi has ever had.’
Mr Zammet, who was a guest at the recent wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle, is also renowned for having created Audi’s fleet of chauffeur-driven cars used to transport VIPs, celebrities and royalty to high profile events such as the BAFTAS, Olivier Awards and polo matches, which have been dubbed in the industry as ‘Zammo Cabs.’
Among the many other celebrity-fuelled launches held there, in March 2014, Anna Friel, Sheridan Smith, Phil Glenister, Rory Bremner, and Luke Evans were among the guests for the champagne launch at the showroom of a new Audi TT, as ‘Strictly’s’ Darcey jumped behind the steering wheel.
A rapid twirl in the leather dress revealed a little more than the ballerina had expected
The glitzy dealership will cost at the end of June, Audi confirmed
Audi confirmed that the Audi City showroom is to close by the end of this month (June) to enable ‘reinvestment’ in a new site which will ‘maintain our foothold in central London’.
The German car giant said: ‘Audi City London was established as a pilot project for new digital showroom experiences and, since it opened, has proven the value of digital tools to the customer experience.
‘Having fulfilled this brief, Audi will release the premises in Piccadilly later this year and focus on developing new ways to integrate digital experiences into all UK showrooms to align with changing customer expectations’.
VIP and diplomatic customers will be looked after at its West London Audi facility in Brentford which it describes as ‘one of the largest, most advanced and most imposing Audi Centres in the world.’
Audi added: ‘The prominence of Audi City’s location made an emphatic statement of strength and commitment to the UK market at a time of rapid ascent and expansion for the brand’.
It served as ‘a great catalyst for change’ in bringing Audi’s sales network into the digital age.
But it noted: ‘The concept has very successfully served its purpose.
‘The time is now right for a new Audi development in London with facilities which are better able to integrate new Audi mobility services reflecting significant changes in how customers access and use our cars.’
This is to cope with the roil-out of ‘extensive’ electric and plug-in hybrid cars.
In the interim, other London Audi dealerships will take up the slack.
One motor industry insider noted: ‘Strategically, this is a real retreat from the heart of the premium car district.’
You can have a Bugatti Chrion hypercar for less than £350… but there’s a catch
Want a new Bugatti Chrion for less than £350? This is one way of getting it. The new Lego Bugatti posed in front of a real £2.5million version
Fancy the latest Bugatti hypercar for less than £350 — as opposed to the usual £2.5million-plus price tag? Go for it — but you’ll have to build it yourself.
Lego has joined with Bugatti to create the Lego Technic model of the 261 mph Chiron, which, in real life, accelerates from rest to 62mph in a staggering 2.5 seconds.
The Lego model comprises of 3,600 pieces. Expect it to take a while to complete
On sale now at £329.99, and comprising 3,600 pieces, the completed 1:8 scale model in a classic duo-tone blue measures 5.5 in high, 22 in long and 9 in wide with aerodynamic bodywork, spoked rims, low-profile tyres, a detailed cockpit with movable paddle gearshift, and an engine with moving pistons.
Each model has its own unique serial number under the bonnet. It’s a hit for Lego whose Porsche 911 GT3 RS sold out in record time in 2016.
Only 500 real 8-litre 1,500hp Chirons will be built at the Volkswagen-owned factory in Alsace.
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