The new A2 has many innovative features, but Audi's development team is most proud of the service module at the front of the car.
The unit allows access to the water and oil fillers and oil dipstick without opening the hood.
'Actually, we only included a dipstick for customers who still want a dipstick somewhere,' said A2 project manager Karl Schwarz. 'The A2's oil level is displayed on the instrument panel. You can tell at a glance when you need to refill the oil.'
Other key features include the 'space floor' concept, which increases legroom in the back, and the 'open sky' sunroof that is much larger than traditional sunroofs.
The A2's battery and tool kit are stowed under a flap at the rear of the cargo space. The car only needs to be serviced every 18,600 miles.
The A2's aluminum body weighs 43 percent less than an equivalent steel shell, Schwarz said.
For the first time in Audi history, a complete digital mock-up was carried out before the A2 went into production. This saved about three months of development time, said Thomas Knott, head of Audi's new Technical Release Department.
Audi also recruited assembly line workers to assist in the vehicle's development before the start of pilot production. The workers helped design a vehicle that was easier to assemble.
'These people solved many problems by themselves,' Knott said. The A2 was released for production through the technical release department, another Audi first. Previously, several technical departments approved each car launch.
'We tested the car as a whole, and we organized the test priorities during the development of the car,' Knott said. 'This strategy allowed for multiple use of single prototype cars, and substantially reduced the total number of prototypes that needed to be built.'
The A2 has seen only a small increase in the level of outsourcing compared with other Audi models, Schwarz said.
The car's modules are a little more complete than on other Audis, but there have been no major changes in their complexity. For example, the A2's front end includes a pre-attached cooling system, but still does not include a bumper.
Production of the A2 begins at the end of this year, and sales are scheduled to start in mid-2000. Audi eventually plans to build 60,000 A2s a year.