Today’s test presents us with a URL that I’m not entirely convinced is under the control of a major auto manufacturer.
As a general rule throughout this exercise, I have only been focusing on websites owned and maintained by car companies. I’m not checking up on suppliers, or tire companies or motorcycle companies, etc. Just cars (and trucks and SUVs, but you get the picture).
That line gets a bit blurry with ads like this one:
I should point out that while the ad above looks like a two-page spread, it’s actually just a half-page ad at the bottom of the page. You can get an idea of what it looked like in the image on the right.
Now, this certainly looks like an Audi ad. It has an Audi on it. It has the Audi logo. The text explains that you should enroll your teenager into their excellent programs to help him or her better cope with the experience of driving an Audi.
It even has this Audi-centric URL both in the ad copy and also across the top of the windshield in the picture:
Before we dive too deep into AudiDrivingExperience.com, I think it’s worth taking a trip through the WayBack Machine to see what the site looked like back when the ad was published:
Frequent readers of this site (ha! that’s funny!) will notice that I don’t typically include screengrabs from Archive.org. That’s because I care more about what the site looks like today than what it looked like years ago.
But I think it’s important this time because, yes, this looks like an officially licensed Audi experience. We can see in the lower left that these events are conducted by Panoz Racing School, which appears to still be in operation here in 2021.
While the old site shows that was “the only official source of the famed Audi Driving Experience in North America” back in 2006, these days Panoz Racing School appears to use one of their own purpose-built Panoz cars exclusively.
Okay. We’ll go with the notion that AudiDrivingExperience.com was officially sanctioned by Audi, so we’ll continue our scrutiny of the site today.
And speaking of today, this is what the site looks like now:
(Well, okay, the screengrab was taken in June of 2020, but it still looks very much the same here in March of 2021.)
While, yes, there is a strong Audi presence on the page, AudiDrivingExperience.com now redirects to drivingexperience.com/driving-experience/audi/.
This current site, DrivingExperience.com, does not appear to be affiliated with the Panoz Racing School. Instead, it’s a division of a company called Digital Sports Group, an apparent British-based company that specializes in sporting experiences.
So what happened to AudiDrivingExperience.com? Did Panoz sell it to Digital Sports Group? Did Panoz not maintain ownership of the URL and DSG bought it? Did any of this happen with Audi’s knowledge and/or approval?
If anyone at Panoz or DSG or Audi knows the answers and wants to chime in through the comments below, I’d welcome your insight.