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Audi Factory Visit- trip details (long)
Well, I made it back from my business trip to Germany and Austria and I was able to go on
a tour of the Audi factory in Ingolstadt. Here are the long and gory details of my trip........
My exposure to Audi vehicles began early in my journey to Ingolstadt, during my
flight on Luftansa airlines the packet that had the "moist towlette" was emblazoned with the
new aluminum Audi A8.
I arrived in Munich Sat. morning and was greeted at the airport by yet another Audi A8 (black,
very nice) in the arrival area. It was snowing in Munich and because I was planning on renting
a BMW later in the week I had visions of spinning BMW's dancing in my head, more on this
later....... Stayed at the an airport hotel and did some touristy things over the weekend, took the
train into Munich and visited the Lenbachaus and the Kandinsky art Museum. While wandering
around I saw a procession of three silver Audi A8's with police escort front and back heading
through the main Marienplatz square area. Some bigwig has good taste! Made my way over to
the Hofbrauhaus and filled my tank with two liters of excellant beer (One liter unleaded and
one liter of premium dark).
On Sunday I headed down to the Deutsches Museum which I hear is the similiar to the
Simthsonian in Wash. The Museum was huge (my feet still hurt) with four or five floors with
everything imaginable Planes, trains, automobiles, bicycles, Power generation etc. Downstairs
in the car area there were some neat cars and displays, the 1930's Silver Arrows (Audi and
the Mercedes). They had a section with the 959 Porsche Driveline (engine/trans/front
differential) mounted on the wall and below this display they had the Audi quattro differential
system showing the hollow shaft inside the transmission and a sample of the
Torsen differential used by Audi. There was an Audi 80 sedan with cut-away views of the
safety systems. They had one of the old NSU R0-80 Rotary engine sedans there as well.
Upstairs in the Aircraft display area I found hidden away in the corner, the Audi V8 that Frank
Biela drove to victory during the 1991 DTM series (very cool car). Saw a demonstration on
high voltage electricity (major arcing dude...) that had my hair standing on end.
I spent Mon.-Weds down in Austria working with a company that helped develop the new TDI
diesel engines for BMW, Audi and VW. They had a brazilian VW Gol (no misspelling) with a
1.8 liter carburated engine. Someone there mentioned that there are rumors that the new
Audi TT would be built somewhere in Austria. Flew back to Munich over the Alps
(nice view) and geared up for my factory visit.
I was still snowing lightly in Munich but I decided to go ahead and get the BMW 520i as I had
planned. The rental car agencies had some Audi A4's but they all had the 1.6 liter engine. I opted
for the 150HP 6 cyl of the BMW. I would yearn for an Audi later in the trip for reasons (snow)
to be mentioned later. I headed up the Autobahn to Ingolstadt with a Video camera
mounted under the headrest of the passenger seat to get some Autobahn footage. The roads
were a little wet with melted snow so I was only able to drive 100-110 MPH over the drier
sections. The rain and snow don't seem to slow down the drivers too much although the heavy
traffic certainly did. Arrived in Ingolstadt and had lunch at Mcdonalds (Ich mochte eine Big Mac
mit pomme frits und Cola bitte). Got a Stadtplan (map) of Ingolstadt and located the factory
not too far away. As I got withing a few miles of the factory, I noticed some Audi signs pointing
the way. Despite the signs, I still got lost for a few minutes.
Arrived at the Audi vistors center around 11:30 and headed upstairs to the Check-In Counter.
There were many people there picking up their new Audis and getting there license plates. They
have a huge showroom downstairs that has new Audis lined up waiting for there owners to pick
them up. The Audi representatives explain all the cars features and controls to the new owners
and then the owners drive the car out of the showroom through some automatic doors. They had
the S1? race car of Michelle Mounton and Fabrizia Pons on display in this area. The nice (gorgeous)
lady at the Check-In counter went out of her way to get me an English version of the factory
tour book as the tour was only conducted in German. She also "gave" me a hardcover copy
of the 200+ page book "Audi, a history in Progress". This book is available from the same Audi
publication company that provides the many Audi videos mentioned previously by someone
in this email group. Upstairs overlooking the showroom area they had a cafeteria and
several Audis, an A4, a cabriolet, and near the Quattro boutique gift shop they had a nice
tornado red '84 Sport Quattro on display. I shot a little video footage in the vistors center and
in the gift shop and if it turns out ok and if anyone is interested I can try and make some copies.
The tour started at 1PM and we started in another buildings lobby area that had some A8's
on display. As mentioned before, the tour was in German so details are limited. We were given
headphones and receivers and headed for the huge body part stamping area. We were taken past
several of the huge (2-3 story high) hydraulic presses that punch out body parts starting with
sheet steel using around 4-8 stamping operations for each part. I saw the entire side piece of the
A4 Avant station wagon being stamped out. We then went through the automated welding area
that progressively moves the body through the thousands of welding operations done almost
entirely by robots. The robots swing into action and look like insects nibbling on the car body
as they weld all the pieces together. We then walked what seemed like a half a mile down a
corridor past the engine assembly area, unfortunately we did not get to see any of this operation.
I did notice a huge rack of crankshafts waiting near the entrance though.
We were walked past an area were the bodies were rubbed down after they were primed. I
noticed a funny looking body off to one side, it looked a Honda Civic on steroids. Someone on the
tour noticed this car too and asked the tour operator what it was. The tour guide said "Ah drei"
(A3) and then he seemed to hush his voice and laugh indicating the somewhat sensitive nature of
what we saw. We then saw many different colored A4's coming out of the clear coating spray
operation (very nice looking paint jobs). They had a A4 on display showing the different
protection, primer and paint coatings that are applied to the car. We then moved to the final
assembly area where the various trim and interior parts were being installed. The doors are
removed the car after painting is completed and placed on a lift that apparently brings them back
to the car after all the interior pieces have been installed. The windshield and rear windows
were seen being installed in a few minutes by the people on the line as the car moved slowly by
on conveyor. The body is then rotated on its side to allow the brake, fuel lines and other
body and suspension mountings to be installed. We then saw the entire running gear with
suspension being installed by a team of 4 people who guided the whole assembly as it was raised
from underneath. I noticed a pallet full of intercoolers with attached hoses for what I assumed
was the 1.8T 5 valve A4 engine. The tour finished up shortly after seeing the running gear
installed and lasted about 2 hours. Apparently there is a video available that shows much of
the assembly line process. I noticed it listed in the back of the tour book but the gift shop was
out of stock on them. In the lobby area I sat in the A8 they had on display, nicely appointed
interior and very comfortable. As I walked back to the visitors center I noticed a gentlemen
carrying a poster board with different body color squares with an A3 emblem mounted on it.
I picked up a few items at the Quattro boutique store and then made my way back to the
Autobahn headed for Innsbruck Austria.
I stayed just outside of Innsbruck in the town of Hall in Tirol area of Austria. Friday I drove to
Seefeld the little ski/tourist town where Audi conducts their winter driving school. I ran into
one of the Service personel filling up one of the red Audi A4's used in the school. He told me
how to find the location just outside of town where they have a huge area covered with snow and
ice for the school. I drove my rental car down this narrow snow covered road and found the area.
The area is surrounded by cross-country ski trails and is the size of a large parking lot. There
were two blue A4 quattros and two white A4's parked near the entrance to the snow field.
Unfortunately no one was there at the time so I decided to head out of town and check out some
other small towns nearby. Well, I thought that I would head out of town. My"Bay eM Vay"
(BMW) could not get out of da way when it came to climbing up this snow covered road. Despite
being fitted with all season radials I ended up putting on chains to make it up this little hill.
Having owned an Audi 5000CST the past 5 years, chains were something I did not have the
"pleasure" of using. What a paiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnnnn in the ass. Can't imagine owning this
sort of RWD car in the Pacific Northwest and attempting any skiing activities on a regular basis.
On Sat. I managed to go skiing for part of the day in St. Anton, Austria (about 60 miles west of
Innsbruck) and then I had this "brillant" idea of driving over to Switzerland for the afternoon and
attempt to do a little skiing there. Well, after leaving the 8 mile long Arlburg tunnel it began
snowing heavily and someone ahead of me decided to crash there small car into a Mercedes and
block both lanes of the next tunnel I was approaching. One hour later we were moving again.
The Germans and Austrians know how to have a traffic jam...as I was to find out several times
later in the day. I saw another huge traffic jam in the opposite direction as I made my way all the
way up to the Swiss border only to find the road closed over the mountain pass that I was
attempting to venture over. Tried to go back to St. Anton an alternate route but it was closed
due to the weather as well.
Raced back on the Autobahn only to find the traffic jam I saw earlier and sat for another hour
due to an another accident and the fact that the two lane autobahn was reduced to one lane in
each direction for a few miles over a mountain pass. Apparently there was a German holiday
the previous week and everyone was heading back to Germany. This was coupled with the fact
that there were thousands of skiers headed for the Alps because there had been little snow in
the area until recently. Finally made it back to the Arlberg tunnel only to find that a blizzard
had been going on for some time near St. Anton. Cars were everywhere putting
on chains. I needed to get back to St. Anton to return some skis so I opted not to take the time
and put on chains. I started up over the steep off ramp that lead back over the highway to St.
Anton and barely made it without the chains. (Quattro, Quattro, where is my Quattro?)
I again saw visions of dancing BMW's in my head as I slithered around the offramp.
I thought my troubles were over because the rest of the road to St. Anton (a few miles) is
fairly flat. As I approached the town doing only 15-20 MPH the rear of the BMW started skewing
sideways as many cars approached in the opposite direction. I envisioned many $$$ leaving
my wallet at that moment and my a** puckered up severly. I somehow managed to let off the gas
and barely continue my foward progress at a whopping 5-10 MPH. That $1500 Quattro option
was looking real reasonable when I think about the stress I went through in that moment.
Returned the skis around 5:30 PM and then chained up (no taking chances this time). I stopped
at the gas station to check my chains and helped a father and his gorgeous daughter put chains
on there Audi A6 FWD wagon. (did they really need them?) I made it back over the overpass
headed back to Innsbruck and into the next tunnel to remove the chains. Yes, you guessed it,
hit another traffic jam due to the weather and another short section of winding two lane
mountain road that lead back to Innsbruck. Made it back to my hotel in Hall at around 10PM,
drank some medicine (beer) to ease the pain in my butt and then collapsed.
Headed back to Munich on a beautiful sunny Sunday, stopped at the olympic ski jump area in
Innsbruck and got a beautiful view of the city. After winding through the mountain passes near
the town of Garmisch I was again on the Autobahn and got the BMW up to 220 Km/hour (135MPH)
on a slight down hill section of the autobahn just before it started snowing and raining again.
The 520i had pretty good power, handled well and had a nice exhaust growl through the gears
but the traction (lack of) situation would have me thinking twice. I supposed some sand bags in
the trunk and some studded tires would help.
Well, enough tour rambling from me. Audi Quattro.....take control.....anything else is headed in
the wrong direction.