Where the world meets
In conversation with Otto F. Wachs, Autostadt CEO
Volkswagen, hands on
Right next to Europe's biggest carmaker, Volkswagen AG in Wolfsburg, themes and special events associated with the automobile are brought to life for visitors. Autostadt is also the world's largest vehicle delivery centre.
Mr Wachs, you’ve been here from the start, when Autostadt took shape for the Expo 2000 World Exposition, and you’ve been CEO since 1999. Looking back, what are you particularly proud of?
The automobile has fascinated people for over 130 years. Our aim was to create, at Autostadt, a place for international encounters, and bring together the themes of art, culture, education and mobility. From the beginning, over two million people a year visit us – to pick up their new car, to eat in our restaurants or look around our pavilions or to learn more about the issues of human mobility. Right from the start we’ve been working continually to rethink what we present and make it relevant to the future. That’s where I see our duty, and so far we’ve fulfilled it successfully.
Autostadt’s special relationship with and close proximity to the automobile industry, Niedersachsen’s largest industrial sector, raises the questions: What is Autostadt’s perception of its identity and role? And what does it want to be for the Volkswagen Group?
Autostadt’s motto is ‘People, Automobiles, and what moves them’. We are Volkswagen’s walk-in shop window to the world, and here at VW’s headquarters in Wolfsburg we offer insights of this global player. As the world’s largest delivery centre we’re also deeply integrated in Volkswagen’s commercial operations. In other words: we are Volkswagen, close up. Our vision, however, reaches far beyond automobile themes; as a communications platform we can think more freely and offer our visitors experiences – events, workshops and exhibitions – that look to the future and touch on much wider thematic areas. More than that: It’s our responsibility to fire people’s enthusiasm, to make them laugh, to astonish them, and to create a place where they feel at ease and where they’ll come back to, time and again.
Mr Wachs, what in your view do customers associate with ‘modern mobility’? Can you make out certain trends or expectations?
Mobility – whether modern or historical – has always been more than getting from A to B on four wheels. Mobility, (and we’re certainly talking about the here and now) is more of an attitude and will become part of one’s self-image. You can get from A to B by the most various means: powered by petrol or electricity, on your own, together, with other, at a particular time or spontaneously … but mobility in the mind is what our visitors to Autostadt are seeking. What excites us is our series of discussions and workshops with experts – whether from the fields of education, science and research, or design. The big picture is getting ever more important – and the question it poses of how the diverse areas of our lives can be brought together.
Which – perhaps unique – features does Autostadt offer visitors, and which themes or experiences are especially popular?
Autostadt is unique because it offers very diverse ways of addressing the theme of mobility. People who come to visit us experience a combination of arts, culture, technology and events as something enriching – unique, in fact. It’s only at Autostadt that one finds iconic car towers, exhibitions on themes such as sustainability or design and, above and beyond all that, an automobile museum of many different marques with more than a hundred exhibits on show. People visit us, then, for all sorts of reasons: so their children can pass their child’s driving test, for our cultural highlight ‘Movimentos’, to enjoy organic food in our restaurants, or for our summer and winter special events. To us, it’s important that they have a thrilling time here and want to come again.
Mr Wachs, where do you want to set the emphases of your work, now and into the future?
Our aspirations are and will always be to constantly develop and reinforce Autostadt’s status as one of Germany’s leading tourist attractions. We are already the main reason why tourists travel to Wolfsburg. With our multifarious programme of themes and events we present very special ways of approaching the theme of mobility – and thus offer opportunities to learn, to pause, to think. And that’s what will shape our actions in future.
What is your personal connection with Niedersachsen and with Wolfsburg – what do you particularly appreciate – professionally and personally – about the region?
For over 30 years Wolfsburg has always felt like a highly dynamic and fast-moving town to me. It’s a young, artificially created urban environment, and that’s where it draws its positive energy, for there’s no use seeking old-established or deep-rooted strengths. Here, at this place in Niedersachsen, an extraordinarily high concentration of knowledge, expertise and people from many countries has gathered – and this combination is crucial for our future.
Mr Wachs, thank you for the interview.