(QQ, Spring 2002) — Over the past few years, visitors to Ingolstadt have been greeted with a large-scale construction project as they made their way into the Audi factory grounds. What was going on-a new production line? No, the scale of the project was too small. It looked like more offices, as would be expected from a company that has experienced such huge growth over the past six years.
A little more than a year ago the project reached completion, and we were treated to a wonderful experience. The new Audi Forum Ingolstadt was up and running as of December 15, 2000. According to Audi AG, over 400,000 customers have come to Ingolstadt since the official opening, with 110,000 of those people taking a tour of the factory.
The entire complex stands on 828,821 square feet of land, and consists of architecturally independent buildings, each featuring typical design elements in keeping with their function. According to Audi, almost $75 million was spent to expand and restructure the site.
The Audi Forum Ingolstadt combines a variety of experiences in one trip. The award-winning museum, the tourist delivery center (where customers can pick up their new Audis), the Audi Shop and the Mövenpick dining/catering establishment are all conveniently housed under one roof.
According to Dr. Franz-Josef Paefgen, Chairman of the Board of Management of AUDI AG, "With the Audi Forum Ingolstadt, we have created a special attraction for our customers, our 50,000 or so employees worldwide and, at the same time, for the Ingolstadt region".
In the past, historical cars from the Auto Union and Audi families were kept in a non-descript building on the fringe of the Audi campus. That is no longer the case. Now, these 50 cars and 30 motorcycles and bicycles are housed in a stunning four-story building that clearly trumps the museums of Audi¹s German competitors.
Over 250,000 people have visited the museum since it opened, making it one of Germany's most visited museums. According to Audi AG, in a survey conducted by the Institute for Museum Studies in Berlin, only 28 of the 520 or so natural science and technical museums in Germany had more than 100,000 visitors in 1999.
The Audi museum is one of the most technologically advanced halls I have ever visited. Keeping in line with the Corporate Identity of Audi AG, glass and aluminum are combined to form the visible structure of the 72-foot-tall building. With so much glass, however, there was a need to protect the displays and visitors from the effects of sunlight. So a rotating 'shield' was constructed, which moves around the outside of the building to follow the path of the sun. On sunny days, this effectively blocks direct sunlight and helps maintain the temperature inside the structure, while illuminating the rest of the building's interior with both natural and man-made light.
In addition, a variety of displays move in order to show the passage of time. Engine displays are functional, and a variety of 'talking heads' (speaking in German only, it seems) follow guests around part of the display.
The bottom level of the museum is reserved for rotating exhibits and the museum shop. Last year, the original TT concept cars and mock-ups were on hand. This year, pedal cars from the last 100 years were on display, through the end of February. The shop features historical items from Auto Union and Audi as well as a variety of hard-to-find items. For example, one can purchase flags used to celebrate Audi at Le Mans for about $20, a radio-controlled UrQ for $250 and brochures on many Audis (new and old) from a $2.50 packet about the 1994 S4 to a $65 pamphlet on the Sport quattro!
The museum has received a variety of awards, including the red dot:grand prix, the top design award presented by the famous North Rhine-Westphalia Design Center, and the Silver Award from the Art Director Club of New York. In addition, the museum was voted 'Museum of the Year' by Classic Cars magazine.
Since 1992, European customers have been able to pick up their new cars directly from Audi. This experience has been significantly upgraded with the completion of the Audi Forum Ingolstadt. In 2001, 63,000 cars were handed over to the new owners at the Audi Customer Center. Roughly 250 vehicles a day are driven home by excited new owners, although up to 370 cars can be delivered during busy periods.
Linking the Customer Center and the museum are two Mövenpick catering establishments, the Marché and Avus restaurants and the Bar & Lounge. Over 350,000 guests have dined and relaxed in these establishments, eating in either a casual cafeteria-style setting (although this is MUCH nicer than the average high school cafeteria!) or a more formal restaurant setting.
Of course, the goal for most visitors from the U.S.(until European Delivery is once again offered) is a visit to the new Audi Shop. Re-opened in time for the 2001 holiday season, the shop covers over 2,100 square feet in the Customer Center. The entire Audi AG catalog is available including watches, clothing, models, toys, accessory items, calendars, books and more. It truly takes a strong will to keep from going overboard! Only the limits of what one can drag back on the plane (and one's wallet) keep most people from overindulging themselves. Unfortunately, these items (which differ from Audi of America's catalog) can¹t be shipped to the United States due to an agreement between Audi AG and AoA. So the only way to get the items is to buy them at the factory or have a friend in Europe order them and then send them to you.
Audi Car Club members who are part of the Winter Driving Experience have the opportunity to visit the Audi Forum Ingolstadt as part of the trip. But any Audi customer can visit the facility during regular business hours. Factory tours may need to be arranged in advanced, since English-language tours are not offered on a regular basis. Check with your Brand Specialist or with Audi of America for more information on visiting the Audi Forum Ingolstadt. For the dedicated Audi enthusiast, the experience is well worth the trip.