Sustainability forces VW to move GTI festival back home

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Volkswagen’s GTI meeting was abolished last month due to the Wörthersee area’s push for sustainability.

Volkswagen has revealed a new event to celebrate its famous GTI moniker, weeks after it was announced the famous annual meeting at Wörthersee Lake had been abolished.

The firm will hold a new, officially endorsed event in Wolfsburg, home of the Volkswagen brand, which it says will bring the 41-year-old meet “into the future”.

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“Our GTI fans are of great importance to Volkswagen and that’s why the exchange with them is very dear to us,” said Imelda Labbé, Volkswagen board member for sales and marketing.

“For this reason, after the GTI Meeting at Lake Wörthersee was unfortunately cancelled, we decided pretty quickly to offer the GTI fan community in Wolfsburg a new home for the event. When planning the event, we also want to take into account the ideas of the fans, because it should above all be a meeting for them”.

No date has been set for when the new event might be held, but Volkswagen confirmed it would be a continuation of the Wörthersee show.

The famous meet was previously used for stage shows and vehicle presentations, and Volkswagen says the new one will implement “many other interesting events and surprises for GTI enthusiasts.”

The annual Volkswagen GTI meet at Wörthersee lake in Austria was abolished as the borough of Maria Wörth wants to protect the climate and local ecosystem.

Held every year but not since 2019 because of Covid, the meet was first organised in 1982 as a mecca for fans of GTI – Volkswagen’s performance moniker, which first appeared on the Volkswagen Golf in 1974.

The meeting was officially sponsored by Volkswagen from 2006 onwards. The German firm has previously showcased new models and concepts such as the Volkswagen T-Roc R, the Golf GTI and the record-breaking ID R prototype racer at the event.

It had long been rumoured that Volkswagen would showcase the long-awaited ID 2 GTI electric car concept at this year’s event.

Volkswagen would also sponsor student-built GTI cars, including a Bentley W12-powered Mk6 Golf GTI.

“The enormous increase in participants over the years has shown the limits of possible growth and resilience of our community and the entire Wörthersee region,” said the event’s organisers.

“The effects of climate change, the responsibility of political decision-makers for the preservation of ecosystems and the need to align actions at all levels according to the principles of sustainability make it necessary to place the future design under new premises.”

The organisers also said the positive public perception of the event had dwindled, leading to “increasing criticism and decreasing acceptance”.

The four-day event featured just 100 participants in its founding year but grew to attract 200,000 in its peak years.

Despite the cancellation of the meeting in 2022, some 5000 vehicles were driven to the area for an unofficial event, which led to Austrian police issuing 3700 reports and seizing more than 500 licence plates, according to the German newspaper Spiegel.

The municipality of Maria Wörth said the area wouldn’t host any major automotive events in the next few years, in a bid to boost levels of sustainability in the area.

“We would be happy to continue examining suggestions and ideas for events in our community in the future, but we will weigh up the extent to which they match our ideas of social and ecological compatibility and meet high sustainability standards,” said Markus Perdacher, mayor or Maria Wörth.

“With this in mind, we are and will continue to be in dialogue with the mobility industry, which, like us as a community, must take into account the far-reaching change in the direction of ecology and sustainability.”

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