A fleet of Audis whooshing down a curving road. Mercs glinting in a shower of powerful lights. BMWs moving in a single file on a posh lane. Not the random street shots of a famous automobile photographer, nor features of an auto show. These are slices of three grandly designed luxury car showrooms in Chennai, each undergirded by a unique design concept and a profound brand consciousness

It's about design, honey!

Audi Terminal, Nandanam

As with all luxury car makers, Audi expects its dealers to toe a rigid design line. To start with, the façade has to simulate the cells of a honeycomb. A dealer can't flout this or any other rule for that matter — when it comes to design and brand character, all rules are inviolable.

Players in the ultra luxury segment are ferociously committed to preserving the originality of their designs, and they go to great trouble to achieve this end. “The honeycomb façade is made of high-grade aluminium alloy sourced from Australia. The dealer supplies this material exclusively to Audi,” explains Roshan John, DGM Project, Jubilant Motor works (Audi dealers for Bangalore and Chennai). This facade is the beginning of a brilliantly cohesive design package.

A sense of speed is integral to the Audi Terminal design. Elements of adrenaline-pumping speed are incorporated by jet-black curved walls, studded with cove lights and by columns, each slanting to a 45-degree angle. Two big monitors are the most powerful symbol of the thoroughly centralised design ethic followed by Audi. They are connected to the servers at the head office in Germany.

The unique design continues all the way to the workstations perched on the mezzanine floor. Says Roshan: “Uniformity extends even to the furniture used in the work cabins.”

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Where Merc takes off

Mercedes-Benz showroom, GST Road

While heading towards Tambaram in the twilight hours, a motorist is likely to slow down when he enters the stretch of the GST Road that runs parallel to the airport. The new Mercedes-Benz showroom, housed in glass walls, is a resplendent sight that can make even the most cynical go ‘wow'. Parked on multiple levels, the Mercs are bathed in powerful LED lights. The interplay of transparent walls and light under a cloud of enveloping darkness makes for an arresting view. “We keep our showroom lit until late hours,” says R. Kannan, vice-president, Trans Car India (dealer for Mercedes-Benz).

Romance courts the prospective buyer as he studies the Mercs parked on the ground, first and second floors as well as in the basement. Every five minutes, he is greeted with a sight of a plane taking off or landing!

Hard-nosed business sense also dictated the decision to go for this location. “Our target group travels to and from the airport frequently, and it pays to be in their line of sight,” explains Kannan. “Struck by the beauty of our showroom, people on the way to the airport have walked in.”

Designers of this showroom have faithfully followed the Mercedes Benz design rulebook: the fact is partly illustrated by images and words on walls making powerful statements about the brand.

Amba Shankar, deputy general manager of Trans Car India, gives an example: “The atrium, which always showcases the most recently launched Merc, is a striking replica of the one atthe Mercedes-Benz Brand Centre in Stuttgart.”

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Driven past Urban Street?

BMW Showroom, GST Road

The BMW outlet, located a short distance from the mouth of the airport, possesses an understated elegance. Much of the effort has gone into its interiors.

As he / she steps in, the visitor gets the sense of walking down a street. BMW machines are parked in a single file on what is called ‘Urban Street'. “This is a design element unique to BMW showrooms,” points out New Bigin, manager-marketing, BMW Kun Exclusive.

On one side of the Urban Street is a glass wall, and on the other, an elevated pavement that combines style with utility. This pavement has a row of subtly demarcated sections, including a compact eatery, discussion desks, reception and visitors' lounges. This fuss-free design is carried over to the higher floors: a visitors' room and a canteen that launches into a commentary of the brand history through pictures.

Beyond the Urban Street are the merchandising and delivery bays. The former exudes youthfulness. At the latter, a huge poster displaying the blurred image of a natural scene on one side of the wall and a mirror spread across the other allow the buyer to enjoy the optical illusion of going down an autobahn snaking through a German countryside, before he / she drives out of the showroom and joins the chaotic traffic on the GST Road.

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