April 4 - The two gleaming glass towers of Volkswagen's Autostadt, or car town, house technology which automatically moves cars from VW's Wolfsburg plant to the towers, to the customer center where they are collected by their owners. Joanna Partridge reports.
Picking up a new car usually involves a trip to the dealership. But people who've bought a new Volkswagen can watch it being delivered to them automatically. That is - as long as they travel to VW's theme park - located next to its headquarters in Germany. The glass towers of the Autostadt - or car town - are the world's biggest car delivery centre. They've become an icon in Wolfsburg, an hour's train ride from Berlin. The cars are built in the plant next door, then transported by conveyor belt to be stored in the towers before being handed over to their owners. PTC: "The technology inside the towers was developed just for Volkswagen. It's also a way of storing a large number of vehicles in a relatively confined space - twenty cars on each of the twenty levels." Robotic arms rotate from a central beam to move the vehicles into parking spaces within the towers. 400 vehicles fit inside each tower, helping VW deliver around 600 cars every day, over 175,000 in 2011. . Visitors can experience the ride their car takes in a glass cabin. Lino Santacruz-Moctezuma is the Autostadt spokesman. SOUNDBITE: Lino Santacruz-Moctezuma, Autostadt spokesman, saying (English): "The car towers have become, or have been from the very beginning, the landmark of the Autostadt. You can see them from kilometres away, and slowly but surely they have also become an icon for the Volkswagen Group." The cars are carried on a track to the customer centre to be fitted with license plates and finally collected. Franz-Josef Goecke has come to pick up his new Tiguan. SOUNDBITE: Franz-Josef Goecke, New Volkswagen owner, saying (German): "One of the reasons for coming was that I wanted to see how the cars are made here, and the dealer told me about the museums and other things to see here." Like the many other drivers from Germany, neighbouring Austria and Holland, Franz-Josef can drive away with zero kilometres on the clock. VW is Europe's biggest car maker and is focussing on sales in emerging markets like China for growth. Its premium brand Audi already is market-leader there. The towers are proving popular. 37 percent of new VW buyers from Germany come to collect their cars from Wolfsburg, should that figure grow there's space to build two more high-tech towers. Joanna Partridge, Reuters