This year the Autostadt in Wolfsburg, which was opened on the 1st of June 2000, celebrates its tenth anniversary. Right at the outset of this celebratory year a new record was reached: on Thursday the 25th of February 2010 more than 20 million visitors had passed through the Autostadt gates. Instead of honouring the 20 millionth individual guest, the Autostadt decided to donate Euro 20 000 to the relief operation founded by the board of the Volkswagen Group together with the Montfort Missionaries for the victims of the earthquake in Haiti.
The decision by those in charge at Volkswagen to open an automobile theme park in June 2000 saw the beginning of a very unusual success story. Otto Ferdinand Wachs, the Autostadt’s CEO comments: ‘The Autostadt’s continuing popularity throughout the last ten years proves quite categorically that its underlying founding vision, to launch a new form of communication between Volkswagen and its customers with the aim of intensifying the relationship both quantitatively as well as qualitatively, has proved successful. The Autostadt has continued to develop from its beginnings as an innovative experiential world concentrating on mobility as its theme and has, in the course of its existence, established itself as one of Germany’s leading tourism destinations’.
The Volkswagen Group’s decision in the mid-90s to build the Autostadt in Wolfsburg was an endorsement of the Group’s geographical headquarters. The Autostadt served to introduce a new approach as far as service excellence was concerned to what was then a mono-structural and industrial community. At the same time it promoted further investment in regional leisure- and industrial facilities as well as in the hotel- and the catering industry with the result that Wolfsburg is now a place that offers a most attractive range of services. Because the Autostadt employs around 1 500 people, it is one of the biggest employers in Wolfsburg thereby making a significant contribution to the reduction of joblessness in the region.
Tourism magnet: the Autostadt in Wolfsburg has put Wolfsburg onto the tourist map
If in the early years the Autostadt, as a new and definitive leisure destination, was especially popular within the region, over the years it has developed not only into a sought-after travel destination for people from all over Germany, but has become the jewel in the crown of Lower Saxony’s tourism industry and its largest single destination. According to visitor statistics, it is in second place as Germany’s most popular experiential park and a survey found that about 70% of German citizens are aware of the Autostadt.
Internationally too the Volkswagen Group’s communication’s platform is seen as a particularly interesting and unique leisure- and automobile park. The German National Tourism Board, the Federal Republic’s primary marketing arm, promotes the Autostadt as one of Germany’s top ten tourism destinations. Built by Volkswagen to mark the EXPO2000 in Hanover, it will be represented in its tenth year in the context of a World Exposition at the EXPO2010 in Shanghai. The German Pavilion alone estimates international visitor figures of around eight million: the Autostadt here represents the tourism motifs of the state of Lower Saxony.
Autostadt as a vital function in Volkswagen’s sales network
Right from the outset one of most important visitor groups consisted of people who had come to collect their new vehicles. The strengthening of ties between the manufacturer Volkswagen and its customers is one of the Autostadt’s key concerns and has become central to the organization. Since opening over 1,4 million new cars, which is an average of 30% of the German private customer market, have been handed over in the KundenCenter (CustomerCentre) which means that with around 550 vehicles per day it is the largest car distribution centre in the world. The Autostadt therefore plays a vital part in nurturing customer loyalty and is instrumental in fostering a direct, emotional relationship as it pertains to the brand and the company.
In addition to developing customer loyalty, the Autostadt’s primary function was to attract potential new customers. By bringing to life the many and diverse themes dealing with human mobility in exhibitions and events the Autostadt has succeeded (with a market share of approximately 40% of drivers of competitor’s brands) to a large extent in introducing potential customers to the Group’s products in a sympathetic and informal way. Regular market research has shown that approximately 20% of Autostadt visitors intend buying a new vehicle in the foreseeable future. More than 10 000 decisions to purchase annually makes the Autostadt the largest single place world-wide where decisions are made in favour of the Group’s products.
Child- and family friendly attractions draw diverse visitor groups
Approximately 80% of all Autostadt attractions have either been completely renewed or refurbished. New attractions, a variety of events and updated development of content like the cultural and educational offers or new exhibitions like ‘Level Green – the concept of sustainability’ keep visitors’ fascinated, awaken public interest thereby extending Volkswagen’s customer base. Many target groups are addressed including automobile enthusiasts who are automatically drawn to the ZeitHaus – the most visited automobile museum in the world – those interested in art and culture, individuals and groups who come for the extraordinary events that the Autostadt stages, those who take advantage of the special children’s- and family offers and those who enjoy first-class restaurants. The seven years of the Movimentos Festival Weeks, which was founded in 2003 as an international dance and cultural festival, alone has brought more than 200 000 visitors to the Autostadt.
75 000 year-ticket holders, who visit the park several times a year, attest to the loyalty guests feel towards the Autostadt. At the same time it manages to attract people who have not been before so that the percentage of first-timers, which after 10 years of existence stands at around 40%, ensures a constant stream of visitors. In addition to the strong regional popularity, over half of guests come from out of state: about 43% of visitors come from within a radius of 100 kilometres of Wolfsburg, 33% travel up to four hours to get there and 24% undertake a trip of over four hours to experience the Autostadt. In comparison to the early years, and as a result of the versatile extended offers, the average length of a visit has risen from four to six hours.
The progressive strategic extension of child- and family-friendly attractions which include educationally based performance-, art- and cultural offers and the Autostadt’s accredited education department with its diverse educational content from kindergarten to seniors, have found much favour with visitors and are most sought after.
Ongoing development to provide an exciting family destination has resulted in visitor figures of people who come with either their children or grandchildren rising from 40% to 62%. In 2009 196 000 guests alone made use of the educational offers.
High quality service as key to success
A cornerstone of the Autostadt ethos has always rested on the highest quality of service as it pertains to all its offers: from the way it treats its guests on its grounds, to the organically certified Autostadt restaurants and the multiple award winning five-star hotel ‘The Ritz-Carlton, Wolfsburg’ with its three Michelin-Star restaurant AQUA. This dedication has been applauded by its visitors: overall satisfaction of all guests participating in Autostadt offers has reached a peak of 95%. The staff in particular was complemented on its friendliness (93%). Satisfaction levels as regards car collection and the concomitant ‘experiential day’, reached a record figure of 97%.
‘Today the Autostadt is acknowledged as the ‘prototype’ of automobile experiential worlds. As such it has set the benchmark for the continued rediscovery of the theme of automobility, of developing it and making it accessible and up-to-date. The healthy visitor response therefore both challenges and motivates us to engage with, and develop, new ideas creatively in the future’ (Otto Ferdinand Wachs, CEO of the Autostadt).
– Volkswagen AG