First it's a darkly lit silhouette, or maybe a shining headlight. A tantalising glimpse of a forthcoming model weeks before its motor show debut.
Then, as the countdown nears its conclusion, a single photo is 'leaked', which the media republish eagerly, along with whatever hasty speculation an overworked news editor can cobble together from a nod and a wink. By the time the vehicle's actual debut at a motor show comes around, the world is primed to receive the car company's message along with whatever facts are earmarked for release.
That's how it works with concept cars, like the Jaguar CX-17 for example. For production cars, like the Audi A3 Cabriolet or Audi A8, both of which have their world debut at the Frankfurt Show this week, the whole game is given away weeks ahead to ensure consumers have maximum time to prime their bank managers for upcoming expenditure.
So, when a concept car somehow gets all the way through to the actual motor show without being subject to The Slow Reveal, or leaked by a Russian magazine that went to press too early, you can be sure of one thing: There's no hope in Hell of the car or anything vaguely resembling the car ever reaching production. Such is the case with Audi's strangely-named nanuk quattro concept car. Part performance coupe, part go-anywhere SUV, the Nanuk is the work of Audi's pet design house Italdesign Giugiaro. And it has about as much chance of making production as Kevin Rudd does of becoming Prime Minister for the third time.
Which is a shame, because the Audi nanuk would absolutely blitz its way through the desert thanks to a mid-mounted 5.0-litre V10 turbodiesel engine delivering 410kW and more than 1,000Nm to all four wheels. That's the kind of performance that uses sand dunes as runways, that crosses arid expanses faster than a feral camel with heatstroke chasing imaginary oases.
Not sure, then, why Audi felt compelled to give this 1900kg King of the Outback four-wheel steering to realise what it calls "the perfect turning circle". Perhaps it's to help with that other crucial SUV chore: the school run.
Nanuk, if you must know, is Inuit for polar bear. Which makes perfect sense to us.