NEW YORK: Digital services and systems may be transforming the automotive industry, but marketers must not forget the powerful emotional pull that car brands still exert, a leading executive from Audi has argued.

Anupam Malhotra, manager/connected cars for Audi of America – the US unit of the German luxury automaker – discussed this subject during a session at Internet Week 2014 in New York.

While the "connected car", equipped with sophisticated technology and personalised services, is increasingly becoming a reality, he told delegates that auto marques fulfil both functional and intangible needs for drivers.

"There are times when you need to have the right presentation of what your car is," Malhotra said. "There are times when it's not just transport; it is how it makes you feel, it is what it represents about you.

"And that's where I think cars have really paved a lot of road." (For more, including how Audi is taking a customer-centric approach to applying new tech, read Warc's exclusive report: Audi keeps consumers in control of the connected car.)

Such a strategy is especially important for high-end marques, as is the case for any manufacturer of luxury goods that command a relative price premium.

"Clearly, in the marketplace that we play in – the premium marketplace – that [factor] is a large part of the brand character, what people go for these cars for."

Audi has been an early adopter of many innovative digital services, from providing broadband connections to developing systems capable of reading incoming Facebook and Twitter messages aloud.

Furthermore, Malhotra suggested, introducing tools that are genuinely valued by, and useful to, customers promises to fundamentally alter the relationship between man and machine.

"I think the car itself will become a place where you gain a kind of experience that you remember, and it's not just something that is a transportation mode from A to B," he predicted.

"It will become a place that adapts to you, learns about you, learns about your preferences and then becomes what you need it to be for what you're using it for."

Data sourced from Warc