Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Audi Factory Tour

So why Győr as a vacation destination? Because I wanted to take the Audi factory tour!

My TT was built here. It's the only Hungarian-made car I've ever owned. And since this city was one of the very options for me to pick up a rental car for the drive to Eger, it seemed like it would be fun to take the factory tour. Tours are limited to 20 participants and they only offer the English language tour once a week, Wednesdays at noon. So, way back in April, I went onto the Audi Hungarian website (audi.hu) to register for the Wednesday that I'd be in Hungary and could pass through Győr.

It was booked.

Five months in advance. I asked the General Manager at Audi Henderson if he could pull some strings all the way to Hungary. Last week, he forwarded me an email from some official-sounding women in the Audi marketing department in Germany. She said a spot was reserved for me and she reminded the GM to tell me that the tour would start at 12:30 p.m., not 12:00 noon. Sounds good! So I drive up to the very well-marked Audi factory on the outskirts of Győr.

I park the Mercedes. I get there at about 11:55 a.m. because I didn't know how long it would take to drive there from where I picked up the rental car (answer: about three minutes). I go to the front security desk where they direct me to the souvenir shop down a corridor. I tell them that I'm there for the 12:30 p.m. tour. I get stares.

Turns out, there was no 12:30 tour, only the 12:00 tour, which was going to be in German becaue it was booked by a group. There is no English language tour scheduled for this week. They have no record of me having a reservation. It does not look good for me. But, thankfully, I must have looked pathetic because the girls at the Audi plant look pity on me. Whatever works! They told me to be back at 2:00 p.m. for a private factory tour. The only problem was that they were not assembling cars today and that only the engine assembly area would be functioning.

I returned at 2:00 p.m. and got my two-hour tour after all. We were joined by two Hungarian speakers, but the tour was conducted in English. It was a fun tour. No photos because of intellectual property and industrial espionage and all that. What struck me the most is just how clean the factory was. Sparkly even. I told the girls after the tour that that was what most surprised me and they said, "It's the Germans." It wasn't the traditional assembly line. It was a series of work stations, with an under-construction engine pausing at each work station for about 90 seconds at a time in some areas, longer in others. There were some robots at work, but a lot of people operating high-tech equipment. It was not what I expected a car factory to look like.

The reason that car assembly was down is that the Győr plant assembles only two vehicles: the TT and the A3 Cabrio. Yes, in Europe, Audi sells the A3 as a convertible. I saw one in the parking lot at the hotel in Győr where I picked up the Mercedes:

I want one! I saw a few more in the factory parking lot. No surprise there.

There were a few nearly finished vehicles on the production floor of the assembly area. Just no work going on. They also were assembling Audis in some wacky colors that we don't see stateside, like Orange. Not the tasteful Burnt Orange you see on occasion, but Tennessee Volunteer Orange.

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