Sunday, August 27, 2006

An auto elevator lifts a Volkswagen to its appointed parking space in the VW Autostadt "car tower" in Wolfsburg, Germany.

The Autostadt's primary mission is what's called car "collection," where buyers take possession of their new VWs. Up to 40% of European buyers make the trip to Autostadt to receive the keys to their new car in a bonding moment of great ceremony.

Not surprisingly, this process has an architectural component. New cars are stored in two 20-story cylindrical glass towers, each of which has a robotic car lift in the center. At the appropriate moment, the robotic arm plucks the car from one of the honeycomb-like cells and brings it to the ground floor to meet its new owner.

It may surprise American visitors, but VW Group — Germany's largest car company and the very synonym of proletarian transport — owns some of the world's most prestigious brands, including Lamborghini and Bentley. Most of VW's corporate subsidiaries have their own high-tech pavilions at the Autostadt, and if you are that rare aficionado of Skoda or Seat, you will have a really good time.

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