Three years ago, Audi submitted a patent application simply titled, “Motor Vehicle,” that described “a generic motor vehicle” with a convertible roof mechanism. The curious details about this application lie in just how generic the drawings are, that the conveyance in question appears to be an SUV, and that said SUV uses a hardtop, not a softtop roof mechanism. Then there’s the fact that the patent focuses on a vehicle that “exhibits a great transport capability in the closed position of the roof.” In other words, a big droptop baggage handler.
The innovation up high rests on three pillars, specifically the A-, B-, and C-pillars. The front section of the roof just aft of the A-pillars doesn’t retract, so there is always “a rollover protection for persons present in the motor vehicle.” The persons in the front, at least. The middle and rear sections of the roof are attached to and moved by the B- and C-pillars, respectively. The rear portion rises so that the middle portion can slide underneath it, with the B-pillars. Then the rear roof section and C-pillars descend into the truck area, forming a flat cover behind the back seats. The patent application says the setup would “produce a flawless outer look of the motor vehicle by covering the front roof part, the two side pillars and the two rear pillars.”
Naturally, you can’t have all the fresh air and all the load lugging simultaneously. Yet Audi writes that maintaining a conventional, multi-pillared structure with the roof up bestows its idea with “a far greater transport capacity than known convertible vehicles.” To maximize access to the trunk, the backlight can descend into the tailgate, the B- and C-pillars can snug up against the body, and the tailgate can retract into the body of the vehicle. Complicated. And perhaps effective. Coming to an Audi dealer near you? No telling, but most patent apps go nowhere.
Audi filed this application just after the Nissan Murano Cross Cabriolet imploded, and the Range Rover Evoque Convertible was being prepped. Three years on and after seeing the non-proliferation of convertible crossovers, our first response might be to think this is Audi having a “Hold my beer and watch this” moment. Yet the German luxury maker previewed its Q5 crossover way back in 2007 with the two-door Cross Cabriolet quattro concept. Speaking of those more recent production escapades, the Evoque cabriolet sold better than the now-deceased Evoque Coupe, and the Murano Cross Cabriolet’s so popular in its afterlife that it trades hands for roughly 60 percent of its original sticker price. With crossovers clearly the way forward for now, the segment might just be waiting on a carmaker to figure out how to mix sunshine and SUVs for profit.