Visiting Volkswagen’s breathtaking car towers should be on your bucket list

Located in the heart of Autostadt, Volkswagen’s car towers are clearly visible from a distance because they’re among the tallest buildings in Wolfsburg, Germany, the company’s home town. They weren’t built just for show, however. Cars are stacked in either tower until their new owner picks them up. As you’d expect, they’re an immensely popular attraction.

Simply put, the towers are among the most impressive car-themed buildings in the world. They are exactly what their name implies: a pair of silo-like glass towers designed specifically to store cars. The bigger one of the two is roughly 160 feet tall, and it’s capable of storing about 400 cars. It’s the garage that every tech-obsessed gearhead dreams of.

The bigger of the two towers is roughly 160 feet tall, and it’s capable of storing about 400 cars.

Over two million customers have opted to take delivery of their new Volkswagen at the towers since Autostadt opened its doors in 2000. On average, about 500 cars are picked up there daily. With such a high turnover rate, the cars only remain in the towers for up to 24 hours. Volkswagen told Digital Trends that it has plenty of space to build additional towers, but it’s satisfied with two because its delivery center is already operating at full capacity.

Before we delve into how the car towers work, it’s important to note that the process of buying a new car is completely different in Europe than in the United States. Here, shoppers typically drive home in a model that’s already on the dealer’s lot. Cars are typically only ordered when buyers want a special paint color, or an uncommon option like a manual transmission. It’s generally the other way around across the pond, meaning customers configure a car precisely how they want it and wait a few weeks for the company of their choice to manufacture it.

Cars ear-marked for an Autostadt delivery are automatically transferred from the main Volkswagen factory in Wolfsburg to one of the two towers via a long underground tunnel, and immediately taken to a parking spot. Each tower is fitted with a massive central beam and two complex lift systems that travel at about six and a half feet per second. It takes precisely a minute and 44 seconds to transport a car from the bottom floor of the tallest tower to a parking spot on the very top floor. Volkswagen tells us the car towers are the fastest automatic parking systems in the world, a claim verified by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2014.

Customers are told when they need to arrive at the delivery center that’s adjacent to the towers well ahead of time. The center houses a gift shop, two restaurants, a new car showroom, and a store that sells accessories such as mud flaps and roof racks, so those who arrive earlier have plenty of ways to pass the time. They wait patiently in the center until their name is displayed on a big screen; that’s when they know that their car is on its way down.

An underground tunnel connects the car towers to Volkswagen’s main factory in Wolfsburg, Germany.

One of the two lifts pulls the car out of its parking spot and takes it to the bottom floor. Machines then transfer it to the delivery center, where license plates are installed and the buyer meets his or her new acquisition for the very first time. A vast network of machines and belts ensures the car is never actually driven, so the odometer displays precisely zero kilometers when the new owner hops behind the wheel for the first time. Exceptions are inevitably made for cars built outside of Wolfsburg, like the Beetle.

Of course, there are restrictions. The relatively small size of each parking bay means that bigger models like the Touareg don’t fit. Additionally, only customers who live in Germany, Austria, or Holland are eligible to tick the “car tower delivery” box when they order a new car. Finally, it’s exclusively offered to motorists who buy a Volkswagen or a SEAT, the company’s Spain-based division.

For years, the car towers were off-limits to the general public for safety reasons. Volkswagen recently changed its policy, and Autostadt visitors are now permitted to step inside by hopping on a special lift that takes them to an observation deck located on the top floor of the tallest tower. The platform only moves at about three feet per second; any faster would make it feel too roller coaster-esque, according to Volkswagen.

Once on deck, visitors can look down and watch the machinery in action, or look out and enjoy and commanding view of Wolfsburg. Whether you’re into cars, architecture, tech, or landscapes, there’s a good reason to put visiting the car towers on your bucket list.

Cars

Driving a prototype 2020 Passat at Volkswagen’s Arizona Proving Ground

Volkswagen’s Arizona Proving Ground is where new cars are tested to the breaking point, including the 2020 Passat midsize sedan. Ride along as the new Passat completes testing ahead of its 2019 launch.
Cars

Aston Martin’s 1,000-hp Valkyrie will boast the Mona Lisa of the engine world

Aston Martin has released new details about its F1-inspired Valkyrie hypercar. Co-developed with Red Bull Racing, the Valkyrie will be one of the most aerodynamic production cars ever made.
Emerging Tech

With this robotic garage, retrieving your car is like using a vending machine

Remembering where we parked our cars can be a real pain. But what if our cars came to find us, rather than the other way around? A new automated robot parking valet system aims to help.
Mobile

Car-branded phones need to make a U-turn if they ever want to impress

Your car and your smartphone are becoming one, yet smartphones branded or co-created by car companies are a problem. We look at the history, some examples of the best and worst, then share hopes for the future.
Cars

Best Products of 2018

Our reception desk has so many brown boxes stacked up, it looks like a loading dock. We’re on a first-name basis with the UPS guy. We get new dishwashers more frequently than most people get new shoes. What we’re trying to say is: We…
Cars

These winter-warrior cars will never leave you out in the cold

Snow can be an absolute pain if your vehicle isn't optimized to handle that sort of terrain. If brutal snowstorms are an annual part of your life, we recommend you pick up one of these winter-ready vehicles.
Product Review

Boring takes a back seat as 2019 Corolla Hatchback mixes fun with practicality

We drive the 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback, the latest hatchback to bear the Corolla name. As the best-selling nameplate in automotive history, Toyota has high expectations to meet. This model mostly lives up to the legacy.
Cars

2020 Toyota Supra caught hiding in a trailer without a shred of camouflage

Toyota's plan to once again lure enthusiasts into showrooms involves bringing back the Supra, one of its most emblematic nameplates. Here's what we know so far about the upcoming coupe, which Toyota is developing jointly with BMW.
Cars

NYC mandates minimum wage for Uber, Lyft, other app-based rideshare drivers

New York City's Taxi and Limousine Commission approved a rule that drivers for companies such as Uber and Lyft must be paid at least minimum wage, even though they are independent contractors. The new pay rate includes operating costs.
Cars

LM Industries’ autonomous shuttles head to Phoenix, Sacramento campuses

LM Industries will deploy Olli low-speed autonomous shuttles at school campuses in Arizona and California as part of its ongoing "fleet challenge," which asks local groups to propose uses for autonomous vehicles.
Cars

Bosch’s CES-bound shuttle concept takes us on a trip to a not-too-distant future

Bosch envisions a future in which driverless shuttles occupy their own market segment. The German firm won't build the shuttles, but it wants to provide everything else, ranging from the drive system to the apps used to hail them.
Emerging Tech

A lidar-equipped truck knows exactly how much de-icer to apply on roads

Lidar is best known as the laser-based technology that helps self-driving cars sense their surroundings. But the city of Knoxville has another, more seasonal use for it: De-icing roads.
Cars

Hertz speeds up car rentals with biometric scan technology

Biometric security technology that uses face, fingerprint, and voice recognition is gaining traction, with Hertz emerging as the latest company to incorporate it into its daily operations.
Product Review

Inside Maserati's Levante SUV beats the heart of a Ferrari

Maserati’s luxury SUV gets a shot in the arm by way of Ferrari-derived V8 power, but is it enough to go toe-to-toe with the established players in the high performance sport-utility segment? Let’s find out.