VW Steps In and Saves Europe’s Legendary Worthersee Car Gathering

  • The annual Wörthersee GTI Treffen, held since 1982, saw crowds as large as 200,000 at its peak.
  • The local municipality of Wörth in Austria, where the event was held, announced the permanent end of the event earlier this year.
  • VW has officially sponsored the Treffen since 2000 and has now pledged to continue the tradition at its headquarters in Wolfsburg.

If you are a fan of the Volkswagen GTI in any of its generations, then heaven is a place in Germany. Specifically, the bucket list trip of any VW hot hatch lover is a visit to the near-legendary GTI Treffen, held since 1982 on the shores of Lake Wörth. At its peak, hundreds of thousands of GTI and Golf R fans flocked here, taking pictures of wildly modified Golfs and eating way too much Volkswagen currywurst (VW part number 199398500A). As might be expected, however, the locals grew somewhat tired of the spectacle.

In a statement that nodded to the economic prosperity that past Treffens brought to the region, the local government nevertheless firmly pulled the plug on the world’s largest GTI festival. Referring to the effects of climate change and a need to consider sustainability, an official statement concluded: “The municipality of Maria Wörth will no longer host conventional large car events in the next few years.”

worthersee car rally

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This was of course a blow to many VeeDub enthusiasts, and to Volkswagen itself. Die Treffen began as a grassroots festival, but VW has long supported its fans. It debuted

Wörthersee-specific concept cars such as the GTI Roadster Vision Gran Turismo, a sleek roofless two-seater built to commemorate 15 years of the Grand Touring racing games. And who can forget the insanity of the GTI W12-650, with its 12-cylinder engine mounted amidships and a top speed of 201 mph?

w12 cylinders, 650 ps 477 kw at 6,000 rpm

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But not anymore. Wörthersee will return to its former charm as a picturesque resort in Bavaria’s lake district.

Fortunately, Volkswagen announced almost immediately that the Treffen would still be held, just moved to Wolfsburg. The event will be held next year, and VW plans to call the theme “Home Future”. There will be special highlights, and Volkswagen has promised some surprises for loyal GTI fans.

Really, this is the best possible outcome for the Treffen. With such large crowds, it has effectively outgrown its former location. Bringing the festival directly to Wolfsburg feels more appropriate, and the year’s break gives Volkswagen more time to plan.

The Golf R and GTI both continue to achieve near-perfect scores for their combination of practicality and performance, and their fan bases remain large. If you have postponed your own trip to the Treffen, 2024 is the year.

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Contributing Editor

Brendan McAleer is a freelance writer and photographer based in North Vancouver, BC, Canada. He grew up with his knuckles on British cars, came of age in the golden age of Japanese sport-compact performance, and started writing about cars and people in 2008. His particular interest is the intersection between humanity and machinery, be it the races. career of Walter Cronkite or the Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki’s half-century obsession with the Citroën 2CV. He taught both of his young daughters how to shift a manual transmission and is grateful for the excuse they provide to constantly buy Hot Wheels.