No, it’s not the commercials. I like watching commercials, but I don’t think I would stop drinking Coke because their commercial offended me. The old Snickers’ commercial where a “Snickers deprived person” destroyed other people’s property offended me, but I never stopped eating Snickers. Now, Snickers has a commercial where Roseanne Barr gets clobbered by a great big swinging log. I kind of like that one.
I don’t care for the Audi commercials, but that’s not my reason for not buying the car. I do, however, believe the commercials reflect the arrogance of the company. The commercial I’m thinking of depicts the owners of Mercedes, Lexus and BMW as mindless sheep following the pack. While the owners of Audis are superior people who are able to think and decide for themselves. I thought the arrogance of the commercial reflected the arrogance of the company.
Back in the mid-80s, the Audi 5000 received a lot of bad publicity when the owners claimed the cars were subject to suddenly accelerating for no good reason. I’m satisfied that the sudden acceleration wasn’t Audi’s fault. It was later determined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that the cause of the problem was “pedal misapplication” (the drivers were stepping on the gas pedal and not the brake pedal – and guess what, the harder they pushed, the faster they went). Even though Audi did not feel responsible, they did move the gas pedal and the brake pedal a little farther apart. They were also one of the first companies to put in a brake interlock system, so that the driver could not shift out of park until he had his foot on the brake.
The problem with the sudden acceleration fiasco was that Audi wasn’t quick enough to respond. It doesn’t matter if you have an engineering masterpiece if no one is buying the car. Duh! Their arrogance kept them from being proactive.
I want to digress for a moment. Don’t worry, I will tell you why I will never buy an Audi. But I want to mention something that keeps auto manufacturers from quickly improving safety features. It is product liability law suits. If the manufacturer is being sued over, let’s say a stablility/rollover issue, then, if they widen their wheel base, the plaintiff’s attorney will point to that change as proof that the earlier model was unsafe. Product liability law suits are like a game where fair play is off the table.
It was late in the year 2000 and I had just been hired by Bridgestone/Firestone to assist them in their major tire problem. The Firestone ATX and Wilderness tires were involved in accidents where the tread had separated from the tire. Since I was representing the company, they asked me to assist them in a small problem they were having with tires on the Audi TT.
The Audi TT was, and probably still is, a neat little sports car. Bridgestone provided the high performance tires for the TT (225/45R-17/91Y). They were quite wide, but the distance from the tread to the rim was only about three inches. This only became a problem when the driver sped through a deep pot hole. This could cause the sidewall to pinch the rim and cause a bubble or blister on the tire. In Europe, where the tires had been around for years, the driver would recognize that he had abused the tire and go out and purchase a new one. In the United States, the driver would return to the dealer and claim the tire was defective.
I think both Audi and Bridgestone knew there was nothing wrong with the tires, but Audi wanted to have a meeting to discuss the problem and, quite frankly, Bridgestone wanted to help their customer. The meeting was set up in Washington at 11:30 AM at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. I attended the meeting along with the account sales executive and a senior Bridgestone engineer.
When we arrived in Audi’s reception area, we could see that another meeting was going on in the glass enclosed conference room. We got comfortable and waited. Around noon, the meeting was still proceeding and catering carts arrived from some eating establishment probably buried somewhere in the enormous building. I thought, hey, I may get a free lunch out of this. Free lunches are good. The meeting broke up about 12:30 PM. The Audi officials came out and greeted us and then disappeared for a few minutes. Lunch was wheeled into the conference room. Things were really looking up. Then, the Audi officials came back, proceeded into the conference room, closed the door and ate their lunch for the next 45 minutes. We got to watch. I would have settled for a slice of cheese. Hey, are you going to eat that pickle?
We started our meeting about 1:30 PM. The meeting went as expected. Everyone agreed there was nothing wrong with the tires and Bridgestone agreed to assist Audi in replacing damaged tires at no cost to the costumers. Of course, nothing was said about the shabby way we were treated. Because of their superior attitude, it probably never occurred to them that the peasants had to eat too.
It is hard to be politically correct when dealing with such jerks. I will just say that in the United States Army we make sure the troops are fed. And we have been pretty successful. Is that subtle enough? As I have grown older, I have mellowed. I now will agree to ride in the back seat of an Audi, as long as I am being chauffeured by an Audi executive.
Written by PJ Rice at www.ricequips.com