Day 1 – 10/15/2011

The Eve of the Trip in Beijing

The wheels aren’t yet turning. For now, the Audi Q3s are still sitting on the launching pad in the heart of Beijing – the vibrant, noisy and dynamic centre of this big capital full of bright, sparkling lights. Early tomorrow, the starter will  drop the green flag and the 20 samoa orange Q3s will set out on their 5,700-kilometers trip across China. The task that lies ahead of them is not for the fainthearted and some drivers are beginning to feel a bit uneasy. Everyone knows that traffic here is a completely different kettle of fish than traffic at home in the western hemisphere. Whatever traffic regulations may – or may not – be in force, they are observed at best sporadically. Driving in Beijing means, first and foremost, a constant struggle to move up one or two cars in the perpetual traffic jams.

Pictures day 1

The participants – journalists from Germany, France, Austria, Luxembourg, Sweden, Singapore and the Middle East – have spent the last two days in China, where they first visited Audi’s latest, state-of-the-art production facility before flying to Beijing. On their trip from the airport to the central business district, the group passed historic sites and monuments as well as brand-new neighbourhoods with dramatic skylines. The pace of development here is breathtaking - entire urban districts have shot up overnight and are waiting for their new residents. Everything seems to be in motion. There may be the occasional relic of the past, such as temples with pagoda roofs, ornamental garden parks and historic waterways. Yet despite that, the country always feels like it is rushing forward in the fast lane. Three thousand years running in fast forward mode; the future is already included.

That feeling is further reinforced by a visit to the artist’s district, 798. The avant-garde of today’s modern art is no longer  found exclusively in New York or London – Beijing is where the trends are set. In the galleries here, on the premises of a former metal factory, artists renowned across the globe showcase their work – at prices that have also long since become globalised. And around and about it all, the streets teem with activity. Street painters, necklace vendors, families – and many, many tourists from the West.

Video day 1

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Beijing is a city that enamoured of superlatives. This includes the gigantic LED screen at the shopping and business temple “The Place“. On this high-tech baldachin towering high above the heads of visitors, 14.5 million LEDs deliver razor-sharp definition on a vast, 200 x 30 metre expanse. It is an impressive display, even for die-hard, western tech-nerds and the perfect choice for the tour’s kick-off event. Tonight, the Audi Trans China Tour is really putting on a show: Below the mega-screen is the Audi Tour Terminal – a shining, white modern-day pagoda, surrounded by the 20 vehicles taking part in the trip. Michael Dick, AUDI AG’s chief of technical development, welcomed the participants “to a country that is invariably fascinating and that keeps surprising us“. Dick went on to say that as the world’s biggest automotive market, China had become an important pillar in Audi’s global growth strategy. The automobiles with the four rings have always been the leaders in China’s premium market – a position which Audi plans not only to defend, but to expand even further.

The new Audi Q3 will play a pivotal role in this. As of 2012, it will also be produced locally in Changchun. Expectations are high: In the last few years, the SUV market has not just grown, it has literally exploded. That means the Q3 is ideally positioned, especially for young, private buyers who appreciate design and quality. Over the next few days the Audi Q3’s compatibility with China’s roads will be put to the test, on the fancy boulevards of its metropolises as well as the rugged countryside. Tomorrow, the  journey begins. The first stage goes from Beijing to Jinan – 462 kilometres are waiting.

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