|August 22, 2007
Euro Driving Experience: Audi Driver's Day
One day an article in the ACNA magazine introduced me to a program called The Audi Driving Day. I was so interested in it that when my wife told me she wanted to go to Venice for our anniversary I figured out a way to get to Ingolstadt as well.
To get things rolling I contacted the Audi Forum in Ingolstadt via e-mail. Christiane Strotkotter, a coordinator at the Audi Forum, contacted me and asked me about my specific interests. She then sent me descriptions of some of the packages they offer based on the information I had provided.
Audi offers many different combinations of individual and group packages. Some of the packages have specific dates already picked out, while others allow you to choose your own dates. We picked a package called Twists and Turns.
The Twists and Turns – where the journey is the destination – seemed like the best fit for us since it would allow us to move around based on our interests rather than following a set agenda. The package started at 490 euros per person (in a double room) and included the items listed below:
To start out we needed some customization around our package and Christiane was extremely helpful in getting everything organized to our specifications. Because we were arriving into Frankfurt we needed a place to stay the night before the package would begin. Christiane arranged for us to stay at the Hotel Rappensberger in Ingolstadt which was located about five minutes from The Audi Forum. To get from Frankfurt to Ingolstadt Christiane also arranged a rental car with navigation through Europcar. There is a Europcar located right at The Audi Forum and they have something worked out with Audi for people who only want to pick up a car from one location and return it to another. Apparently this happens a lot when someone is heading to Ingolstadt to pick up their brand new Audi.
The rental car we received was a Nissan Primera station wagon. I was originally told that I would be getting an A3 or Golf (I chose the cheapest rental car option), but I added navigation at the last second and I think that’s why I got the Nissan. This didn't really bother me because this car was only to get from Frankfurt to our hotel in Ingolstadt, a three hour drive at Autobahn speeds.
We arrived at the Hotel Rappensberger, where Audi arranged for us to stay for two nights. While at the hotel we had our “Exclusive dinner menu including aperitif” mentioned above (although we had the choice to take it any night during the program). The front desk made a reservation for us at the restaurant and when we arrived there was a table in a private corner set up for us. There was a menu with our family name on it that had pre-selected foods in German. My wife and I chose our own dishes off the regular menu because we are picky eaters, ate, and went to bed early eagerly awaiting the start of the next day.
The next morning we headed over to the Audi Forum at about 9:15am and returned the rental to the Europcar. We were greeted by a woman who would be going over our itinerary for the day. We went to the bar and were offered beverages while reviewing our agenda. Next up we were introduced to Chris who would be leading us through a typical customer’s Audi Forum experience.
The delivery area is set up to look like an airplane hanger for historic reasons. Inside there are people waiting to hear their name called or see it on the big board, like an airport, so that they can be brought down for a personalized introduction to their new Audi.
The cars are parked on special quartz pavement (we might have got the wrong translation here from Chris) which quiets the tires when driving in and out of the hanger, and each one is plugged in so its batteries won't die. After a customer delivery the customer has the choice of having lunch on Audi, taking a museum tour or just getting on the road. For us, however, there was a lot more to see.
Next Chris took us over to the Audi Exclusive section. I still can’t understand why this is not available in the US, and seeing it in person just made me all the more jealous. Chris told us a story about one customer ordering a camouflage Audi; too bad we couldn't have seen that one.
Following Audi Exclusive we were introduced to Andreas who would be our personal tour guide through Audi’s plant.
Unfortunately Audi is serious about not allowing pictures throughout the one and a half hour plant tour. That said I can confirm that it is an amazing experience. During our visit they were making A4 Avant bodies on one side and completing A3's on the other side of the plant. We saw how an Audi goes from the first piece of sheet metal to the final product. This of course includes molding, welding, paint, engine, transmission, seats, etc. all the way to the first start of the engine.
We even saw some cars going for a test drive. We asked why some cars have more miles on them then others and Andreas explained that it’s because some go for the test drive or some more testing and others do not. This was by far my favorite part of the day, other then the driving. I had a smile on my face the entire time.
After the plant tour we ate lunch courtesy of our VIP wristbands. When were finished it was time to meet Chris again for the Audi Museum tour.
Chris knows a lot about Audi history and told us of his love for old American cars, which he collects. He related the story of a scary crash on the Autobahn in one of his old Mercury classics and credits the car, which had no seatbelts, for saving his life. At the museum Chris gave us a detailed history of the Audi brand with examples of cars dating back to 1903. I was very interested in the history of Audi and took lots of pictures.
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