It might lack the edginess, the architecture, the musical history – and mercifully the bankruptcy – of Detroit but Wolfsburg is Volkswagen. The city is home to around 120,000 and Volkswagen employs more than 50,000 workers.
It was originally called Stadt des KdF-Wagens bei Fallersleben - City of the KdF Car at Fallersleben – and the heat produced from VW’s power station is pumped around the city to a distance of five miles, providing residents with hot water.
Volkswagen supports the local arts gallery and car museum, sponsors an ATP tennis tournament and the local Bundasliga team, VfL Wolfsburg, is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Volkswagen Group.
Wolfsburg is also home to the second-biggest tourist attraction in Germany. The Autostadt is owned and run by – you guessed it – Volkswagen. Around two million people visit ‘Car City’ each year, many of whom travel across Germany to collect their new car, avoiding the several hundred euro delivery charge and having a day out in the process.
The cars are stored in two 200ft tall towers. When a buyer collects their car, they can watch as it is automatically removed from the tower and lowered through a hole in the ground and delivered to the customer with the odometer reading zero.
The Autostadt also houses an off-road test track, a track for kids to drive Beetles and a museum for children. It also has a five-star hotel which VW’s boss, Ferdinand Piëch, demanded to be the best in the world.
But despite the overwhelming emphasis on Volkswagen and its sister brands – there are pavilions for each of its marques – there’s a museum dedicated to the history of the car. It features a priceless collection of rare and exotic models, as eclectic as it is wonderful. Click the image above to take a look at some of the highlights.
Jaguar says that it is considering its own take on the Autostadt, but it isn’t a plan that can be executed solely by a car maker. It needs support from the local authorities, and I’m afraid that this might be the plan’s downfall.
Few would consider Wolfsburg to be a handsome city, but thanks to the passion of its biggest employer, it is a celebration of all we love about cars.