My Adventures in Germany
Germany Trip-2, February 1996
Audi Factory Tour (Ingolstadt)
It 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 2.0 litre 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 within 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.
Below is an aerial view of the Ingolstadt plant area.
Arrived at the beautiful Audi visitor's center around 11:30 and headed upstairs to the Check-In Counter. The Post Card images below show the wonderful architecture of this building and are courtesy of Audi AG.
There were many people at the upstairs counter who getting their license plates and making arrangements to pick up their new Audi. As you can see, they have a beautiful showroom downstairs that has many Audis lined up just waiting for their new owners to pick them up and drive them out the door. 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 quattro race car of Michelle Mouton 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, and a cabriolet near the Quattro boutique gift shop shown below.
The A4 Factory tour started at 1PM and we started in another building's 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.
The factory photos shown below came from an Audi brochure and appear to have
been taken during the early 1990's.
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.
Here is a photo from the Audi AG tour book showing their engine test facility. Looks like a V8 undergoing a workout.
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. This is a photo from the Audi factory tour book, showing a previous generation Audi being built.
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 gentleman carrying a poster board with different body color squares with an A3 emblem mounted on it.
Outside in the employee parking lot, I noticed a S6 Avant with the 4.2 liter V8.
I also noticed a nice S2 near the same area.
I picked up a few items at the Quattro boutique store and checked out a nice tornado red '84 Sport Quattro on display. I then made my way back to the Autobahn headed for Innsbruck Austria. I stayed just outside of Innsbruck in the town of Hall in Tyrol area of Austria. I think my next stop will be the town of Seefeld where Audi conducts their winter driving school.
Audi factory vehicle assembly photos courtesy of Audi AG.
Cyrus Z. was recently in Germany, and visited the Audi factory in Ingolstadt, he was kind enough to send this report with the latest information on visiting the Audi factory..
So we took the train from the Munich Central Station out to Ingolstadt. I believe the train continued to Berlin and Ingolstadt was just the first stop so don't be fooled. The train was around 20euro per person and the ICE trains left every hour, and there were several local commuter trains that left on the half hour.
We took the ICE train, and it is very quick, it took us roughly 45 min to get to Ingolstadt. Once there however no one really speaks english, there is an information booth but it is out in another building. However If you walk straight out of the train station and to the right there is the buses/taxis. The taxis are quick and about 15-19 euro each way, however with your train ticket you can get a free bus ride. There are 4 buses that go to the "Audi Forum" stop and they will say Audi On the bus. Numbers 11, 44, X11 and i think 14. Take the #11 or #14, the #44 take forever, if you see an X11 that will work too, but it only runs early and late for the commuters.
There is a picture of the sign, the #11 ends on both ends at audi and the train station, so you really cant go the wrong way, we were standing with the train station to our right in this picture, and the stop was toward the end of the platform.
The bus ride was about 20 min, and you cant miss the Audi Museum, its the large glass round building to your right, with several Audi Flags in-front of it. You can go in to the museum for 2 euro each, all of the cars have information in both german and english, and is very cool. My favorite was the Audi Stepenwolf on the car lift.
We got horribly lost our first time, it took us 2 hours to get to the museum and eventually got a taxi, We went back the next day for the Tour of the A3 plant. At 11:30 Monday-Friday they have the English tour, no cameras or phones allowed, and it is well worth the 7euro each. It is roughly 3hours, and they walk you though from a large roll of galvanized sheet steel, it gets pressed, welded, formed and painted, then final assembly. all about 70% robotic (the 30% is mainly moving parts and feeding the machines.) Over all we got to see several cars be made, and almost got hit a few times by bran new S3 TDI's coming off the line.
In the end of course they point you to the gift shop, and if you would like, you can go downstairs and pick up an audi you just watched be made. There are 2 gift shops, one in the plant and one in the museum, both a little different, the museum has several old auto union VIN plates, speedos, and lapel pins, along with very cool posters and audi auto union license plate frames. The Plant's shop has more of the stuff you see at the dealerships, along with road safety kits, and hats and stuff.
Besides the Museum and the Plant tour, there are many other things going on. There is a very pricey restaurant, however the cafeteria is very reasonable with several choices and it is just to the right of the main reception desks. They also have movie and Jazz nights in their own concert hall. But what Interested me the most were the specialized tours, and better yet the Audi Driving Experience. While I was there they had daily groups that would get a car and go learn some moves on Audi's own race track/proving grounds. There are several flavors of the Drivers Day, Sport, Touring, Ice, and Training, and the R8 Pilots, respectively in different cars, the Sport i think they said was in R8's as well as the Pilots Go to www.audi.de/driving, if you know german. However if you e-mail them at email@example.com, they can set you up with the details, they speak very good english at the main desk, and are a great help.
There are also about 2 dozen other factory tours, all of which are on request, approximately 200 euros with max of 25-30 people. (Or just 2-3 if you would like) Sometimes if your lucky they will have another group you can just jump in with. They can all be had in English, but again if you want to set one of these up you have to e-mail them 2-3 weeks in advance to firstname.lastname@example.org . These include super detailed information on Paint, suspensions, logistics, and even kid specific "discovery tours" Honestly just the basic tour the guide was not some half-wit, she was able to give us numbers on production rates, lb's per cm pressure, history, and anything you wanted to know ever! about audi.
Over all you can spend a nice day there (we did 2 on accident) and the trains running back to Munich run well past 9pm, as well as the buses. They do stop serving in the Cafeteria around 3pm, so eat before your tour.
Old information from September 2003:
I received this information via Email
"It´s possible to have english guided tours, but the costs are
EUR 60.- for a group.
Two other phone numbers that I received from Audi Ingolstadt
Tel. +49 (841) 89-37575
Here is the original 1996 information on making reservations to visit the Audi factories.
You may want to email or call a week or two ahead of time and make reservations,
as space may be limited during certain times of the year.
At the time I was there in Nov. 1994, there was an English brochure called "From Station to Station, Audi production at Audi" which provided further detail on the assembly process. This brochure is likely not available anymore but there may be a new version.
There was also a video available on the assembly process, with the same name, but I believe it was only available in German and with the European PAL video format. You can get the PAL format converted to the USA NTSC format.
When you call the Audi Factory in Germany, you can start the conversion with "Sprechen Sie Englisch? to try and speak to someone at Audi who speaks English.