When it came time to buy my first car, my dad and I drove down to the used car dealership, and we wound up buying the first one we saw. Here in the states, this is a fairly common occurrence. ‘See it, like it, drive it, buy it’ is the typical car-buying process for millions of Americans, myself included.
So, you can imagine my surprise as I sat down to lunch last week at the Ritz-Carlton, Wolfsburg and learned that buying a new car often takes months for Europeans. Forget picking one out and driving it off the lot. Across the pond, most families work directly with an automaker to customize every aspect of their new ride. They then wait weeks for their custom vehicle to be produced.
After all that waiting, many European drivers crave a bit of pomp and circumstance when they pick up their new car. That’s why thousands of car-buyers journey here to Wolfsburg every year. They often make a weekend of it — staying at the Ritz-Carlton, touring the stunning countryside and visiting the Autostadt, Volkswwagen‘s theme park and educational center that focuses on “people, cars and what moves them.” During their stay, buyers head to the Car Towers, the world’s largest delivery center, to pick up their ride (picture an enormous vending machine — but filled with cars).
But car-buyers aren’t the only people who visit the Autostadt. In fact, the park attracts around 2 million visitors each year — more than 29 million since the official opening in 2000 — making it one of the most popular tourist destinations in Germany. I had a chance to tour the park, which sits on the site of an old industrial complex and puts the automaker’s efficient and sustainable design on display. Click through for the virtual tour to catch an glimpse for yourself.Click to continue reading »