COTD: Seven-Spoke Wheels Edition

When the Miata was introduced back in 1989, one of the details that got some notice was the Minilite-style wheel design that had seven spokes instead of the traditional eight. The running claim (inside joke?) at the time was that it was a weight-saving measure. Probably not, really, but at least slightly plausible.

Maybe it's the trace of ob-comp in my system, maybe it's the math teacher in me, but I always wondered how they did the drawings and molds for seven spokes. It's not an even division; divide 360 by 7 and you get 51.285714 with the decimal repeating. How do you design that? Can the computers handle it correctly? Is one spoke just a smidge off, or are some at 51 1/4 degrees and some at 51 1/2 degrees, or what?


It's a completely pointless concern, I know, but given how important numbers are in the world — and with cars in particular — it's still a curious detail. And being able to divide things evenly just has such a clean, logical feel to it. This just feels odd. Unresolved numbers just hang out there, waiting for closure.

Which is why Ash78 loves dry sumping's report on future Audi product naming strategies is so noteworthy, although it's no more illogical than the big coupe-but-not-a-coupe from that other Bavarian automaker:

This is probably timely...wrote it a while back

Audi to unveil decimalized models by 2014

Until just a few years ago, Audi offered an array even-numbered car models in its markets around the world. Since then, production flexibility, platform sharing, and improved marketing data have driven the expansion into models like the A5, Q5, Q7, and the new-to-America A3.

"We will continue to develop models that appeal to our more discerning customers. For example, we are currently considering the idea of an A4.3625, which will be slightly larger and more luxurious than an A4, feature two regular doors, two half-sized "suicide doors," an interior crafted of alligator skin, a 19-speaker, 1800-watt Harmin Cochlea sound system, and a sporty, steeply raked hatchback. In a sense, it's our answer to the Mazda RX-8. That question was not asked, so we must ask it."

VAG America's Director of Product Development, Jens Mueller, cited the need to enter this market segment after a single write-in questionnaire response indicated a 28-year-old unmarried male in Framingham, MA, with income between $25,000 and $34,999 would be "very likely" to lease such a model in the next 18-24 months.

He continued, "For Audi, that's more than enough validation that a solid market exists for this vehicle."

Many critics ask whether Audi should focus more heavily on its core A4/6/8 models, improving variety, content, and pricing to increase and maintain a competitive edge against rival BMW. Several companies—notably GM—have been guilty of expanding product lines in an effort to gain segment market share, diluting the overall brand and reducing quality along the way.

"In Germany, we have a saying 'Eine Wurst, Funfzehn Groesse' (one sausage, 15 sizes). You see, BMW have an X3, so we must have a Q5. They have an X5; we must have a Q7. They have an M3 coupe; we must have an S5. They have a 1-series convertible, we must have a...Scheisse."

Mr. Mueller then ended the line of questioning abruptly, nervously shouting in German to a coworker in the Product Design group. His assistant later referred us to the product website for the Volkswagen Eos, asking us to imagine four rings on the grille.

When asked about the possibility of a diesel-powered wagon with manual transmission in the US, Mueller responded "We have heard this request from thousands of online forum users, but to date have not sold a single one to those people. We believe these requests to be a result of a single hacker using 'alt' identities to pump up interest in obscure, unprofitable vehicle configurations. Similarly, we will never offer a ute [car with truck bed], nor one where the model's numbers indicate the displacement or any other rational metric."

Photo Credit: misconmike

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