The GTI meeting is one of the world’s largest VW meetings. Since 1982 it has been taking place in the Austrian Reifnitz am Wörthersee for four days each (starting on Wednesday before Ascension Day and ending on the following Saturday). The event now has up to 200,000 visitors. The VW Group is the official sponsor. For the region, the GTI meeting is an important factor in tourism. Over the years, it has developed a strong self-dynamics and a distinctive folk festival character.
The GTI meeting was initiated in 1982 by Erwin Neuwirth with less than 100 participants. Neuwirth had a gastronomic business in Reifnitz at that time and with his initiative had above all the revival of the tourist pre-season in mind. The organizer was – and still is today – the municipality of Reifnitz/Maria Wörth, then under the leadership of the mayor Nikolaus Lanner. In 1983, the automobile designer Ernst Fiala could be recruited as speaker. Other well-known personalities followed, such as Niki Lauda in 1985. From 1985 to 2006 Ulli Brungs took over the organisation at Lake Wörthersee.
In 1987 Reifnitz received a monument with the granite GTI. For this purpose, a rock was imported from southern Sweden, from which young Steinmetz apprentices carved a 1:1 scale Golf GTI in Wolfsburg. Afterwards, the 25-ton object was transported in a special transport to Reifnitz. The official handover by VW was made by the then CEO Carl Hahn.
However, the event quickly outgrew the small community of Reifnitz. At the beginning of the 90’s there were various riots, especially among young GTI fans. The result was primarily damage to property. Politics and business, but also the Volkswagen plant, which initially strongly supported the GTI meeting, feared a loss of image. Subsequently, the meeting was cancelled three times. The GTI-friends came nevertheless and celebrated now especially exuberantly. In 1996, a different strategy was considered – inevitably – and from then on the official GTI meeting was held again. Various attempts over the decades to reassure the situation time and again by renaming the event as the season’s opening, then renamed it to Auto News (current official name) failed. In the vernacular it remained at the GTI meeting.
At the beginning, it was all about visiting the event in the Golf GTI, but this changed over the years: The festival developed into a veritable Volkswagen festival. Tuning and vintage car fans found themselves in Reifnitz with almost all vehicle types that had ever been produced under the corporate flag.
The GTI meeting will be held from 29 May to 1 June 2019.
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