Ingolstadt is probably better known as the setting for the novel ‘Frankenstein’ but for any petrolhead, the Bavarian town is known as the hone of the Audi brand. Ingolstadt is just a 45 minutes drive north of Munich and is easily accessible via the Autobahn. The Audi Forum Ingolstadt provides a fascinating glimpse of life inside Audi. This spacious site is where the brand’s museum, Customer Center, service providers, the factory, restaurants and culture converge.
Before the visit to the Audi Forum Ingolstadt though, the Ingolstadt Village premium retail outlets gave us the opportunity to do a round of shopping. The low euro and the relatively cheaper merchandise from brands like Super Dry, Birkenstock, Timberland, Mandarina Duck, Tumi and more at the village meant a rather fruitful shopping trip for us!
The Audi Forum Ingolstadt is less than 10 minutes away from Ingolstadt Village and being there on a Saturday afternoon meant that it was a pretty quiet place. Thankfully though, the Museum Mobile, the shops as well as the Movenpick restaurant there were open for us to visit and have lunch.
The Audi Museum Mobile is housed in a cylindrical building with each of the four floors charting the brand’s history and iconic cars from each of its different eras. The permanent exhibition comprises more than 50 cars and 30 motorcycles and bicycles. The visitor can experience milestones in the company’s history in the form of dynamically arranged ‘witnesses of the past’: the tour is a journey from 1899 right up to the present, made visible and tangible by the elegant, popular eyecatchers from over 100 years of Audi history. They are presented within a historical context and in motion on ‘moving walls’. Numerous highlights, often including the only vehicle of a particular model line in existence recount history on levels 2 and 3: the legendary Auto Union Type C/D 16-cylinder hill- climb racing car from 1939 or the Auto Union Type C Avus Streamliner from 1937, which was lost in the war. A time line and a meticulously designed layout help visitors to intuitively find the chronologically correct route.
A major draw of the museum is the paternoster lifts that keeps 14 Audi cars in constant vertical motion and can be viewed from all floors. On display during our visit were some very famous Audi concept cars like the Pikes Peak Quattro (which became the Q7), the Shooting Brake concept which was a thinly disguised version of the second TT, the chrome ASF concept that went on to become the first gen A8, the Clubsport quattro concept, Avus concept and so on.
The latest models up close and more especially the people who are making Audi what it is today are there to meet customers and guests in the Market and Customer building. Not only is it the workplace of around 600 internal employees. It also demonstrates the great importance which Audi attaches to customer proximity. The service zone in the atrium is the place of contact where information is provided by the Audi Bank direct, the insurance service VWV, the Audi Personnel Service and a travel agency. There is also a cafe here. A very special atmosphere is created here by the architectural appeal of this building, its glazed facades and its spacious, transparent interior design.
All visitors and customers collecting their cars in person are welcomed at the Customer Center. Here, 62,000 cars are handed over to their new owners each year at the collection service situated in the ‘hangar’, which serves as the model for the uniform architecture of Audi dealerships. Up to 370 cars are collected per day. This service, which was established in 1992, has become even more attractive since the new Audi Forum Ingolstadt was opened. Those collecting their cars experience VIP treatment. They combine collecting their new car with an exciting day (very often more than just one day), which has been tailored especially to them and which makes ‘their’ brand even more tangible to them. Visitors to the Forum can also do factory tours of the plant that builds A3s and A4s in the area but disappointingly for us, no factory tours are held on a Saturday.
The museum shop was opened at the same time as the Audi museum mobile in December 2000. It stocks an exceptional range of new and antiquarian books, car memorabilia, historical model cars and the Audi tradition collection. This combination of new goods and period originals is what makes the museum shop at the Audi museum mobile so unusual. The range extends from new articles manufactured using traditional methods through old products combined with new materials to genuine antiques with an automotive or motorcycling connection. The museum shop also stocks original brochures, owner's manuals, workshop manuals and posters ñ a real treasure trove for the collector or renovator. Those searching for titles that have long been out of print or are hard to come by may well strike it lucky here.
The Audi Shop, extending over more than 200 square metres, offers customers and visitors the opportunity to peruse the Audi collection - the range of lifestyle articles from the Audi brand ñ as well as Audi accessories, from child seats to exclusive wheels. With its modern, light-filled ambience, the Audi Shop at the Audi Forum Ingolstadt is decked out in typical Audi colours and materials. As the main shop, it serves as the model on which shops at Audi Forums and Audi dealerships worldwide are modelled. The Museum and Audi shops gave me the opportunity to stock up on Audi merchandise as well as model cars and other memorabilia!
Before we left the Audi Forum Ingolstadt, I seeked the permission of the receptionist there to drive the A6 3.0 TDI that Audi has kindly loaned us for our trip into the vast Piazza for a couple of shots to pay homage to its makers and creators!