Autostadt - think automotive Disneyland

I remember the days when car showrooms were very utilitarian, sometimes dingy, places.

You would walk through the door and find a selection of new and used cars crammed into a small space. Around the periphery would be a number of sales people sat at desks, often looking rather bored.

Cutaway Volkswagen Golf (© copyright photo)
A cut-away Volkswagen Golf GTE showing some of the technology (© copyright photo)

I can remember quite a few occasions when these sales people seemed to go out of their way to avoid coming over to speak to me as I studied the cars on offer. They seemed to studiously avoid eye contact, let alone get up from their seats to come and speak.

Jaguar E-type (© copyright photo)
Beautiful Jaguar E-type underlines that Autostadt is not just about Volkswagen brands (© copyright photo)

How things have changed… at least in most car dealerships.

Cadillac (© copyright photo)
The gorgeous Cadillac V16 cabriolet (© copyright photo)

Huge investment now goes into setting corporate standards for car showrooms, with manufacturers dictating the design of the buildings – right down to the specification of the floor tiles. Equally, dealers have to apply corporate standards to everything from their advertising through to the training of staff.

Sebasitian Ogier's Volkswagen Polo WRC car (© copyright photo)
Sebastian Ogier’s Volkswagen Polo WRC car (© copyright photo)

Tying in with this, many manufacturers are investing huge centres focussing on their brands.

One of the biggest in Europe is Autostadt, in the shadow of the famous Volkswagen factory in Wolfsburg, Germany. Think of it as a sort of motor car Disneyland!

Chevrolet Corvette (© copyright photo)
American dream – Chevrolet Corvette (© copyright photo)

There is a huge central pavilion with a massive atrium. Here you will find an array of displays and exhibitions, restaurants and cafés. Great for car enrthusiasts of all ages!

Nearby is a multi-storey exhibition of classic, vintage and veteran cars. Notably these are not just brands that are owned by the Volkswagen Group.

Porsche is celebrating 70 years (© copyright photo)
The Porsche pavilion is celebrating 70 years of the marque (© copyright photo)

Around the massive Autostadt site are pavilions dedicated to the Volkswagen Group brands – Volkswagen, Audi, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Porsche, Seat and Skoda. Some are quite imaginative and some are more like a traditional modern showroom.

We had read an account that spoke, in breathless tones, about visiting the Lamborghini pavilion. Sure enough, when we arrived there we were told to come back in 15 minutes for the next show.

1937 Prototype Volkswagen Beetle (© copyright photo)
A 1937 prototype of the Volkswagen Beetle (© copyright photo)

We waited patiently. When we got in, the excitement turned out to be an audio visual presentation of a Lamborghini flying around the desert, punctuated by a large disk on the wall rotating to reveal a Lamborghini stuck to it vertically. Interesting, but hardly worthy of the breathless account!

Autostadt is not just about viewing. You can book some driving experiences, include the on-site of-road course.

Lamborghini (© copyright photo)
The Lamborghini that swivelled round to reveal itself to the audience (© copyright photo)

If you are a petrolhead, with a family who like cars, you will certainly want to visit if you are anywhere near Wolfsburg.
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