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Editorial: Audi ad pokes fun at bikes, bus

Posted by on September 29th, 2009 at 10:30 am

“Truth in Engineering” is the Audi motto. But their new ad stretches that slogan to the limit, promoting its new, supposedly fuel efficient vehicle, the A3 (it’s supposed to get 24mpg 34mpg).

Alongside images of standing commuters jostling on an overcrowded bus, a man on a bicycle dodging cars in the rain on a major road, and a guy trying to navigate heavy pedestrian traffic on a segue, a voiceover intones: “Many people are trying to do their part.”

Cut to the staple of car commercials everywhere, the empty country road — or wait, empty except for a Volvo with a biodiesel sticker, which the shiny new luxury car easily passes on a windy mountain road. Voiceover: “Some just have more fun doing it.”

We have to say, this ad has raised our hackles — and plenty of questions. Such as: Did you ever notice that bus and bike commutes suddenly get to be a lot of fun when there is adequate planning and infrastructure to support the demand for them? To what lengths will car companies go to try to sell their product?

And some more questions in light of Oregon’s (and Portland’s) recent all-out embrace of the electric car: Is it really that fun to drive? How is 34 mpg fuel efficient? How long will the myth of the “green” car persist? Is it really worth throwing your personal money and public funds into a dying industry when other solutions actually work?

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Shawn Small
Guest

ha, that commercial is just plain silly.

anyone with a video camera up for a remake, PORTLAND STYLE?

we can show someone biking through traffic jams, or biking by a gas station with a zoom-in on the price per gallon all the while wearing the smuggest (word?) of smiles

cyclist
Guest
cyclist

Shame on you Elly for disparaging folks who use their Segway to get to and from work! Cycling is not for everyone, some folks may want to do their part to get off the road but for whatever reason don’t feel like cycling is for them. There are several people near where I work that commute via Segway and they seem happy to do so.

Think about it this way: 15 years ago I’m sure there were plenty of folks who said, “Does anybody seriously consider bicycles as a mode of transportation?” Yes, some people do, to dismiss them so casually is to make enemies out of people who could be our allies. People who take any alternate mode of transportation, be it public transit, Segways, walking, they’re all in it with us. I hope you consider taking that snide comment out of your story.

Oh Word?
Guest
Oh Word?

I’m in Shawn. bpeebs at gmail.com!

Scott E
Guest
Scott E

Not that I’m agreeing in the least with this commercial, but this is an Audi 3 TDI (diesel powered) and gets a highway 42 mpg and city 30 mpg (34 combined).

The 24 mpg car you’re refering to is the regular gasoline version of the A3.

You can search for it on that fueleconomy.gov website you listed above. (I can’t get it to give me URL to link though)

But anyway, I prefer to use human-power!

Hillson
Guest
Hillson

Unfortunately, my parents taught me to believe anything Audi says. : )

Scott E
Guest
Scott E

There we go. I got the site to behave:
http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/noframes/29414.shtml

Nick V
Guest
Nick V

Just an assumption here, but I would guess that at least 95% of Americans still consider the car to be their only logical mode of transportation. They are the target audience for ads like this. I went back to my hometown of Baltimore and the only cyclists I saw were doing a weekend fitness ride. When I told people that I drove to work, they figured my commute was only 9 or 10 blocks…….

@#2 cyclist,
How fast do Segways go? I don’t know a whole lot about them but from seeing pics of them, it looks easier to just walk to one’s destination.

Amos
Guest

I think it’s great! A sign of changing times when gigantic auto manufacturers feel the need to compete with the ever-increasing threat of human powered (mostly) transport!

It’s working!!!

fredlf
Guest
fredlf

Maybe this vile and obnoxious ad is good news: alternate commute modes are becoming popular enough for the car companies to perceive them as a threat.

Looking forward to the day when an ad like this is considered as socially inappropriate as wearing blackface…

Hart
Guest
Hart

It’s an embarrassment to the auto industry that they have to spend billions on advertising to make their cheap/sustainable competition look bad.

Cars are over.

MJ
Guest
MJ

@shawn – I like that idea! Sort of a video response to the Audi ad.

We need to find someone with an A3.

Jonathan Maus (Editor)
Guest

To me, this ad is just the latest example of how driving is the new smoking and cars are the new tobacco industry.

Seriously folks. The auto industry is spending millions to try and sell a lie… that using their product is fun and that it has no harmful effects… when EVERYONE knows that our country’s over-dependence on cars has a massive negative impact on many parts of our lives.

Cars are great… when they’re used responsibly… but don’t try and sell me on the fun, don’t try and hide the True Cost they have on our society, and don’t make fun of more sensible transportation choices that we all agree we need much more of.

Just like the tobacco industry, the car industry will do whatever it takes to sell more of their product. they have no interest other than their bottom line. be wary.

Hart
Guest
Hart

Also, that 34 mpg is laughable. Not to mention that’s based on sunny, warm, dry track conditions at speeds below 55 mph, with perfectly inflated tires and a new oil change.

Nick V
Guest
Nick V

Correction from my comment #8, “BIKED” to work, NOT “drove” to work!!!! I should learn to proofread.

Hart
Guest
Hart

Why doesn’t this ad run in prime time:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xlH5I2IzRNc

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

One of the major bike brands, not a toy bike, needs to put up a national commerical touting their Green(tm) Transport line of bikes.
Pretty pictures of bikes of all shapes and sizes. Images of average sized americans biking down roads, some in bike lanes, some on the road, some still in european style bicycle facilites. Never less than 3 cyclists in frame at a time; subliminal message here is that numbers are growing and you won’t be alone.
End the commercial with the brand name and the new bike commuting slogan “Remember, cycling is nowhere as dangerous as the car companies have lead you to beleive.”

felix
Guest
felix
Quentin
Guest
Quentin

Have fun paying off the $30,000 loan you got in order to participate in the delusion that the astronomical amount of finite resources consumed by producing tens of millions of new automobiles every year, and the mind-boggling oil-dependent infrastructure they require, is going to lead the human race toward anything other than environmental and economic catastrophe. Have fun with that.

Brian Johnson
Guest
Brian Johnson

A marketing honch somewhere has a beef with transport modes that don’t include single-passenger vehicles.

(Have any of you taken notice of the number of single-passenger autos out there? There’s a gigantic inefficiency, right there.)

Anyway– for this ad to compare a car to cycling, walking, and public transit is a bit absurd. It’s missing the point. They should have been targeting potential consumers of mid-sized gasoline-burning autos or even small SUV’s.

patrickz
Guest
patrickz

I could go on and on about this ad and car commercials in general. We need more ads like the Trek one from Hart, #16. It makes me want to get on the road and try (and/or enjoy) MY efficiency. Also, the people in the Audi ad are mostly going to their jobs, except for the lucky driver who is out for a spin in the sunshine. How many of us commute like that?

cyclist
Guest
cyclist

Nick V #8: The top speed on them is 12.5 miles an hour, definitely faster than walking, and not that much slower than cycling (especially for the people that are using them).

I know there aren’t many people on them, but I don’t see any reason to act dismissively towards people that do. They’re a much better option than a gas combustion engine for people who commute by themselves, and are a workable option for folks who don’t have to commute more than 5 or 6 miles.

Brian Johnson
Guest
Brian Johnson

The Trek ad is pretty nice. That certainly should see more air time on television to counter car ads.

This one has been my favorite:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xh5Pr1k7I34

With a little editing this could be a great TV spot, I think. It certainly makes me want to go by bike for my next in-town errand.

Brad
Guest
Brad

This editorial is laughable!

The auto industry is trying to sell cars – shocking! The images they are using are pretty effective on their TARGET DEMOGRAPHIC and, sadly, quite truthful. Been on a MAX train at rush hour lately? Ever not had proper weather gear on a rainy commute? Ever been afraid to ride in traffic? (Especially you Elly – weren’t you frightened enough to more-or-less forget there was actually a tradeshow in Las Vegas that you were supposed to cover?)

I think you are ticked off that someone had the audacity to poke fun at us alternative transportation users and, from a creative standpoint, it actually works. My we are a thin skinned bunch!

Will I give up riding? No. Will I buy an overrated German car? Again, no. Will this ad cause bike commute share to plummet to less than 1%? No! It’s a freakin’ car ad and most bike users are not mindless consumer sheep!

The most amusing part of your tome is the question, “Did you ever notice that bus and bike commutes suddenly get to be a lot of fun when there is adequate planning and infrastructure to support the demand for them?”.

I must have forgotten what I learned in college marketing classes. A CARMAKER and their ADVERTISING AGENCY are supposed to stroke our egos, validate our choices, or advocate for local transport planning in lieu of selling their product? Perhaps I was hungover that morning and took really poor notes.

Fess up – you and BikePortland hate cars and you don’t really want to share the road either. It’s OK to admit that and it is a perfectly legitimate point of view. You are preaching to a choir of sorts here and your wishy-washy psuedo-philisophical ramblings are just embarrassing and make you look like a humorless wonk that can’t take a joke. Or do you need the validation of like minded people parroting back your POV?

Jonathan, please think about returning to what this site does best: covering Portland’s thriving bike scene. This site is best when it informs us about local matters of policy, local activism, and about how people in our town are creating a better environment for bikes. It inspires us with tales of bike fun and how to make bikes an integral part of our lives. Complaining about car ads and labeling auto use as a “vice” neither informs nor inspires very much at all. In fact, it just inflames people in the same way as “bikes vs. cars” nonsense and you have been clear about your position on that subject.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

The auto industry is withering or ailing, but it’s not dying. Short of a nuclear apocalypse, it may never die unless humanity does.

Cars are can be fun to drive…this is a well engineered vehicle that’s fits, handles well, is fast, and does decently well in today’s mileage wars, so it probably is a car that’s fun to drive…maybe not quite as fun…like sex and drugs…? as this ad would like everyone one to think. I’m trying to think when I ever had fun riding a bus…. .

Nick V, Segways are built to have a top speed of 12.5 mph/20kph. I’ve only seen one out in the Beaverton area…quite a few downtown Portland. Guy rolled right into the Fred Meyer on it. I’m not sure I think much of that idea, but being able to do so says convenience and practicality. People whose joints and what not are starting to fail may be thinking these type machines are the best thing since the invention of the car.

Segways cost a lot of money. There’s lots of less expensive electric vehicles that will get you there. The bike though, for those that can still ride them, can still give you the most bang for the buck.

Grimm
Guest
Grimm

Somebody should edit in a final scene of that fancy audi sitting in gridlock traffic and circling the blocks finding a parking space… As a cyclist rolls up locks his bike w/ a 0.00/mpg patch on his backpack.

Rich Wilson
Guest
Rich Wilson

My problem with the Audi is the pass on the twisting road. My problem with the Hutchison ad is that the Masi guy has a death wish. Just because you have a hot car or some fixed skilz doesn’t mean you should be an asshole out there.

Brian Johnson
Guest
Brian Johnson

Brad #24: That’s what an “editorial” is for. It’s a segment for expressing opinion. Just about every news outlet features them.

Jonathan Maus (Editor)
Guest

Brad,

Thanks for your input about our editorial and the choices we make about what to publish. We’ll take that into consideration.

Your assumptions that we hate cars and “don’t really want to share the road either” are incorrect.

I’ve said many times that I’ve got nothing against responsible car use… but it’s about using the right tool for the job.

And I have never called driving a car a “vice” as you attest above. I love my mini-van. It allows us to take road trips, pick up family from the airport, haul huge loads of cargo, etc…

I think it’s an important trend to cover when car makers go beyond just trying to make their cars look good and they start disparaging other modes (like bus and bike) that they know are gaining momentum in the eyes of public opinion.

Bahueh
Guest
Bahueh

Is this what Bikeportland has turned into? dissecting car advertisements that don’t align with a particular viewpoint?

slow day at the office?

and Hart..the car is not going anywhere, not in your life time…and if it goes anywhere in the near future, it will only be to the electric conversion shop…

Grimm
Guest
Grimm

Bahueh, I think the point that traffic is diversifying and the auto industry is scrambling to make itself still seem like the golden child. Sure it will probably be the largest mode of transit in our lifetimes, thats fine. But ridership on bikes and buses is up. I was slightly floored last time I went to Best Buy, they have electric bikes, scooters and segway knock offs on their sales floor. It makes sense that audi is trying to down play any other options, they are scrambling and using scare tactics to make them seems like that only legit option that is luxurious and “green”.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

This ad is not much different from others in that the over-arching message is that our car makes you superior to other people. Appeal to pride is a pretty good tactic to use in advertising. Walking is for suckers. Riding a bike is for poor losers. Living within your means is for suckers who don’t understand “leverage”. Driving around in our car allows you to scoff at, smirk at, pity, pass, feel superior to all those poor suckers who are either too poor or too stupid to buy it. Classic. I used to know a guy who played a game with his kids called “spot the lie” every time a TV ad came on.

To be offended by this ad is a little bit of a stretch, but understandable in that cyclists are lumped into the “poor sucker” group. It would be one thing if this car was being compared to other cars, but it is interesting that Outie thinks they need to compete with the bus, bikes, and Segways.

Diego
Guest
Diego

What’s really interesting is that the 1983-85 Volvo 240 they show there probably ISN’T a diesel-powered car. While Volvo did make a diesel 240 in 1983 and 1984, you can see from the front end pictures that the exhaust downpipe is that of a regular 4-cylinder gasoline model, and not a diesel.

Another big tipoff is that the Volvo appears to be going uphill under load. If it was really a diesel Volvo – no matter HOW clean the biodiesel is or what shape the engine is in – it would be blowing a large amount of black smoke out the tail pipe. Even brand new, the 1980s Volvo diesels were smokey, especially when going uphill.

While I am shocked and outraged at this inaccurate portrayal of the terrible (Volkswagen-manufactured!) D24 engine, I have to say the Audi A3 is a pretty neat car. While it’s been available in Europe since 1996, it’s only recently (2006) been imported to the USA, as the demand for smaller cars has picked up.

Also, Audi is no longer shipping the A3 with the optional gas-guzzling V6, and has instead offered it with the usual turbo gasoline engine or (new for 2010) the turbo diesel engine.

Volkswagen AG (owner of Audi AG) has continually improved their diesel technology over the years and is one of only a few companies to offer diesel vehicles in the USA. All you have to do is compare the sooty-spewing Volkswagen/Audi/Volvo diesels of the early ’80s with one of their 2010 TDI engines (which can run on biodiesel from the factory). I applaud them for it.

felix
Guest
felix

#24 BRAD

Well said!

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“I was slightly floored last time I went to Best Buy, they have electric bikes, scooters and segway knock offs on their sales floor.” Grimm #31

The BestBuy out in Beaverton doesn’t display segway knockoffs…it has the authentic Segway, but equipped with off-road tires…’off-road tires’…think about that. The Segway website is worth a look.

“…but it is interesting that Audi…or ‘Outie’…I thought that was at least a little funny too!… thinks they need to compete with the bus, bikes, and Segways.” El Biciclero #32

Is that what Audi is thinking? I the appeal is there despite various benefits of mass transit and muscle powered personal transportation. If people like cars and they have the money, at least some of them will buy an exciting, well designed, sexy motor vehicle for those times they want to drive.

I was reading somewhere yesterday that in Europe where percentage of people riding bikes is greater than it is here in the U.S., sales of cars are still high. The possible suggestion being, that people drive their cars but they don’t put as many miles on them in daily use as Americans do.

Steven J
Guest
Steven J

Heh,

Tell me the bike industry doesn’t use the same kind of hype to sell their products.

I’d respond with a video of taking a vacation each year to Spain, with the money I save from cycling.

Or the 8 weeks I’ve taken to ride Trans-America and spent less than a grand to do so.

30,000 could also go a long way towards buying property.
Property that’s value wouldn’t drop 5k just driving it off the lot.

Jebus
Guest
Jebus

I’ll continue to drive my WRX for fun, as it is the only time I ever get to drive it! My bike takes me everywhere within +/- 10 miles, and that is just about everywhere I want to go.

The car takes me the hour long trip into the country to my parents house with the dog and with food and beverages and most importantly the wife.

Cars can be fun. Sometimes bikes aren’t.

Virginia Bicycling Federation
Guest

Well, they got ya to put it on your blog, didn’t they?

N.I.K.
Guest
N.I.K.

A car manufacturer attempts to sell the public on a product by insinuating that they’re doing less of the “right thing” than Freakshow Loser Exhibits A, B, and C, and that the solution is to do more by buying a pricey item during a recession.

What’s that? No, there isn’t a punchline. **giggles**

Mark
Guest

There are so many comments that I’m not sure anyone else noticed. The ad uses racial stereotypes for their transit riders. Frankly, that’s the only shame I can see here. Audi wants to sell cars. They will not be rolling back progress in alternative transportation, at least not here, as a result. Time to pull on the rain pants and do my part to keep the mode split going up and to the right for bicycling.

kitty
Guest
kitty

show it stuck in traffic @ 13mph. how much fun is that?

kit
Guest
kit

This ad is like a country club making fun of minorities. Classless, disgusting and laughably out of touch if it wasn’t so exploitative. The hapless klutz stereotype of cyclist is a shameful image to draw upon to sell cars. From a marketing perspective, it is NEVER a good idea to take a shot at the little guys. It makes you look like a grade-a dick. Is that the market Audi is trying to reach?

Thanks for showing us side you’re on, Audi. I won’t forget it.

@grimm: thanks for the zero per gallon love. 😉

Kt
Guest
Kt

Audi is trying to show that a turbo diesel car is as good if not better than a regular gasoline-engined car, in a market that has traditionally viewed diesel-powered vehicles as dirty, slow, ugly outdated trucks/tractors/station wagons.

That’s why the alternate modes of transportation in their commercial are shown thru a gray-blue filter (blah), and the car driving up the twisty hill is shown in a brighter yellow-white filter (yippee!).

34mpg (combined city/highway) is pretty good.

Point taken that all the great MPG in the world means exactly nada when you’re stuck idling in traffic.

Just providing an alternate viewpoint, so don’t shoot me.

cyclist
Guest
cyclist

Kit #42: Comparing what cyclists experience to the racism minorities have had to tolerate in this country is much more offensive than the advertisement itself. The lack of perspective is truly appalling.

Richard
Guest
Richard

Will these cars even be available? Last year, my wife and I were looking for a new car, and contacted VW dealers locally about the new VW wagon, “clean diesel” TDI. We were told that only a handful were being delivered to Oregon, they were already sold, and there was a long (years) waiting list.

Anyway, that’s advertising for you. They have to convince people that commuting in a car is fun. Been there, done that, won’t go back. I’d rather commute by bike, even on the coldest and rainiest day Portland has to offer.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“show it stuck in traffic @ 13mph. how much fun is that?” kitty #41

13mph is fast for being stuck in traffic. Try 2mph, or being stuck dead/stop and go with stinky-hot exhaust whirling around everywhere. It really sucks for drivers when people walking on the side of the road are making time on the cars!

Cars, even fancy ones like this Audi then become little prisons, but there’s the comfy seats, air conditioning, stereo, and snacks in the car offering quite a bit of consolation.

I think that advances in recumbent bikes equipped with electric assist and cockpit enclosures that allow better personal environment control… ventilation/heat/cold, stereo, will increasingly have more to attract commuters that enjoy the comforts and appeal of an exciting car.

kit
Guest
kit

Cyclist #44:
I am not saying that the comparison is of two equivalents. I was making an exaggerated comparison of an established, lazy, and privileged group taking a shot at one less established and more underprivileged.

Every time a conversation around cyclists goes into the realm of cyclist as minority people get up in arms about how a minority of choice shouldn’t be put in the same category as one not of choice. But this is really missing the point. The dynamic between underprivileged minority and privileged majority exists, whether by choice or not, and I assure you, ON THE ROAD, cyclists are an underprivileged minority. Seen in this light, there are plenty of valid comparisons if one isn’t so caught up in the difference in scale of injustice.

Again, I intend no offense and I CERTAINLY do not intend to belittle the massive history of injustice against ethnic minorities the world over.

Rich Wilson
Guest
Rich Wilson

Personally, I’d like to commute in http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQwpGLCAMm4 once they work out a few turning and acceleration kinks.

cyclist
Guest
cyclist

Kit #47:

“I am not saying that the comparison is of two equivalents…”

“This ad is like a country club making fun of minorities.”

The comparison above was the first sentence of your comment. Who on Earth is going to take that statement seriously? There’s a WORLD of difference between how cyclists get treated and how minorities get treated. If people keep getting upset with you comparing cyclists to minorities, perhaps you should abandon it and come up with a better way of arguing your point.

Mike
Guest
Mike

So many people mention showing the car stuck in traffic… why not show the bus stuck in traffic? Or the drunk guy sitting next to you that hasn’t showered in a month? How about showing all the cyclists trying to ride their bikes in the snow? I realize there are some die hard commuters out there, but that is certainly not the majority.

Not everyone in the US lives in Portland (sounds stupid to say, but follow me a sec.) Therefore not everyone has the amenities and infrastructure that PDX provides, the weather of the NW, nor the tolerance of cyclists by non-cyclists.

People need to chill out and gain a little perspective. Is a car commercial (a very effective on at that) really worth getting “our hackles” raised over? Really?