It's an unlikely setting for a brand whose heritage rests on autobahn burners and buttoned-down Old World manners.
But the bright lights of Las Vegas have done nothing to diminish the mystique of Audi, whose blend of sport and luxury cars were on display at the Specialty Equipment Market Association event with company backing for the first time.
Clearly, the head turner was a V10-powered R8 Spyder boasting 710 hp. Bright red and open-topped, the car attracted plenty of stares. But Audi had a well-rounded stand with the A4, A5, Q5 and Q7. .
So why would Audi come to SEMA? In a word: exposure.
“The attention and turnout has been fantastic,” said David Tait, Audi's lead after sales executive.
Tait said the door is open for a return appearance, as Audi has been able to connect with dealers and suppliers as well as its enthusiasts.
Luxury makers are scattered throughout the show floor. Lexus and Lincoln are staples and backed by their parent companies, but the top-shelf cars remain largely an aftermarket effort. That means there are impressive and gaudy Ferraris, Mercedes and BMWs -- though not with official backing.
Audi, however, decided the publicity pump was worth the effort, and also showed its Autonomous TTS Pikes Peak car that runs without a driver. Plans to demonstrate the car were scuttled at the last minute when the available space wasn't large enough to effectively show off the car.
Audi also used SEMA to display and get feedback on a range of technologies, including wireless iPod chargers and light-up floor mats.
As a first-time exhibitor, Audi was a bit taken a back by all the SEMA festivities -- but in a good way. Its stand was a bit smaller and more sedate than elaborate layouts by other companies, but it appears the German carmaker is accomplishing its goals for Vegas.
“It's a huge show,” Tait said. “It's a lot bigger than I could ever imagine, but I think it's good for us.”