Film appearance boosts Audi's US image, but sales are still down

German carmaker invested 2 million euros in the car used in I, Robot

Ingolstadt, Germany. Audi's product placement in the Hollywood movie I, Robot has improved the brand's image in the US, according to a survey of moviegoers done by the automaker in six American cities.

The sports car prototype Audi RSQ is on screen almost nine minutes in last summer's science fiction thriller starring Will Smith.

"According to the viewers, Audi improved specifically in regard to attractiveness, individuality and sympathy," said Tim Miksche, head of product placement.

He did not specify how much Audi's American market value rose -- with reason.

Audi continues to have an image and sales problem in the US. The brand is still recovering from the worst-case scenario in the mid-1980s when multiple owners claimed Audis were capable of "unintended acceleration." Audi ultimately was largely exonerated of product flaws, but the massive publicity hurt consumer confidence. US sales plummeted to 23,000 units in 1988 from 75,000 vehicles in 1985.

Last year, Audi sold 86,421 cars in the US, compared with BMW sales of 276,900 units. Audi US sales have fallen again this year, down 9.7 percent to 63,388 units after 10 months compared with last year.

Audi expects to sell no more than 80,000 cars this year.

So the VW subsidiary had hopes for the product placement in I, Robot. It was the first time that a German manufacturer specifically engineered and built a car for a Hollywood film. Audi invested around 2 million euros in the project.

Audi also negotiated cooperation with film studio 20th Century Fox. Audi advertised both the concept car and the film in its TV spots. In return, Fox showed the vehicle on its film posters.

Audi profits from the film beyond the US market. So far the Hollywood movie has been shown in 60 countries and attracted more than 50 million moviegoers, including 2.6 million in Germany.

In addition, the car was seen in more than 40 countries in either print, online, or TV spots.

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