The special relationship between Wolfsburg and VW

Wolfsburg. “We are looking for good neighborliness,” with this promise, Sebastian Schmickartz, Trinity project manager at Volkswagen, welcomed about 300 citizens on Monday evening to what is now the unmissable information event about the construction of the new electric car factory. Transparency and dialogue: The city of Wolfsburg and the car manufacturer committed to this motto right from the start for the implementation of the mega-project. The strategy seems to be working. There have been no major protests so far. The concerns of the affected residents, who repeatedly turned to angry comments at the first information event just over half a year ago, appear to have diminished with the dialogue. The debate in the participation process no longer seems so emotional, it is conducted more factually and constructively.

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Trinity project manager Sebastian Schmickartz.

Even on Monday, when the city and VW presented the latest planning status, things remained largely calm. At six information stands on individual topics such as nature conservation, the factory or traffic, planners keep visitors up to date and again take up suggestions from citizens. Lord Mayor Dennis Weilmann and Schmickartz emphasize the great importance of these impulses and thank them. The “collective project” that Schmickartz likes to call Trinity appears to exist.

Climbing campaign: activists hang posters

On the sidelines, however, there are protests. Before the event begins, activists climb from the Stop Trinity vigil at the entrance to CongressPark and put up a large protest poster. A member of the security service, who seems a bit overmotivated, tries to prevent the activists from doing so, even using physical violence citing house order. The activists, who remain peaceful, will not be deterred from their project. After all, the poster is hanging – and will no longer be taken down.

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Protest action: Activists from the Stop Trinity guard hung up a poster.

Protest action: Activists from the Stop Trinity guard hung up a poster.

The people of Wolfsburg do not allow themselves to be infected. Only a single heckling accompanies VW and the city’s roughly one-hour presentation. It is aimed at organizing the event with small information stands instead of a large discussion in plenary. “I lack a real dialogue. It’s all so over organized and a bit hypocritical. You can only come up with proposals, there aren’t really any discussions,’ explains Mirjam Gärtner later in an interview with WAZ. The Braunschweig native works at VW himself, is a trustee and a member of the environmental association. She has nothing against the project itself. “Only against the location. Why seal off such a large area? The factory could also have been built in the factory,” she is convinced.

Most residents of Wolfsburg trust Volkswagen

Most residents of Wolfsburg see it the same way: the vast majority of them support the project itself and are only concerned about the effects on their residence. But they are aware of the importance of the new two-billion-euro factory for the future of the place, hope for secure jobs and appreciate Volkswagen’s “clear commitment to Wolfsburg”, as mayor Dennis Weilmann puts it. It is significant that the majority of participants in protest actions such as the guard or the occupation of the Porsche pavilion in the Autostadt does not come from the region.

Citizens were able to find out planning details and the results of expert opinions at information stands.

Citizens were able to find out planning details and the results of expert opinions at information stands.

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The special relationship between Wolfsburg, its residents and Volkswagen – it becomes clear here. The region breathes with the car manufacturer. It also gives confidence to the company, which also acts as an employer for many. It is, for example, the supplier park that has moved to the north close to Brackstedt, which is currently causing the greatest annoyance. The residents of Brackstedt are concerned about increased traffic and noise pollution. People believe Volkswagen when they promise to do everything to keep the burden as low as possible. But you don’t know who is moving into the Supplier Park there, is what you can hear from the ranks of the citizens at the information stand.

Wolfsburg and VW: A special connection

That is the impression of Julia Spönemann, managing director of the agency Hier Mittenmang, which VW hired for the public dialogue. Her team is following the process and has spoken to many of those affected. Many larger projects, especially those for which the public is responsible, are characterized by mistrust. “It’s different here,” says Spönemann. The special constellation that many residents work in Volkswagen at the same time is clearly felt. The special conditions in Wolfsburg may mean that a major project in Germany is actually relatively loud and scandal-free.

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