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Factory Visit: ABT Sportsline
About 114 years ago Johann Abt founded a blacksmith shop in Kempten with a smart idea in his mind: converting carriages, so that they could be used in the harsh Allgäu winter. Since that day the company started it’s developed into a well-known car specialist and tuner around the world. A factory visit seemed to be an excellent idea to tell you the story of ABT Sportsline.
The fourth generation of the company is now in the charge of Hans-Jürgen and his brother, the former DTM pilot Christian Abt. Both general managers have extended the combination between technology, horsepower and the passion for tuning and motorsports into the world as we know it today. A total of 180 employees work for the German company. A visit to the headquarters in Kempten, Allgäu will immediately overwhelm you with the heritage of the company on topics like tuning and especially motorsports. The racing history of ABT is very important in terms of its brand but also while using the knowledge from the racing team into any of the available tuning packages.
2009 was a successful year in Motorsports, the highlight being the defence of the DTM touring class title. Swede Mattias Ekstroem triumphed for Audi and ABT in 2007 whilst Timo Scheider was successful in 2008 and 2009. The 2010 season starts at the Hockenheim ring and ABT will try to bring the cup back to Kempten yet again.
But there is more than just DTM. After the introduction of the Audi R8 LMS at the Essen Motor Show 2008, Team ABT Sportsline took part in the 2009 24 hour race on the Nürburgring with two cars. The car, driven by Christian Abt, Jean-François Hemroulle, Pierre Kaffern and Lucas Luhr came in second at the long-distance race. The racing heritage continues within the family. The fifth generation Abt is knocking at the door. Daniel Abt achieved his first championship win in 2009. The son of Hans-Jürgen won eight of the 14 races and secured the ADAC Formula Masters title. The 16-year-old will continue his motorsport career in Formula 3.
While walking through the museum on the first floor you will be amazed by the amount of trophies, different racing vehicles, special projects and the extensive racing history within the company. Inside the gallery below you may have spotted a Formula 1 car. Red Bull and Toro Rosso are an ABT sponsor so they placed the Scuderia Toro Rosso STR1 F1 car inside the showroom.
A second part of the company is the tuning business. ABT is known for its packages for Volkswagen, Audi, Seat and Skoda, but there is more. The 80 employees work on a daily business improving vehicles, designing body kits and creating packages for numerous vehicles. The latest in the line-up are programs for the 2010 Audi A8 and R8 Spyder, but also special projects like the ABT R8 R street-legal racer.
Inside the showroom we spotted the top of the Audi line-up; R8 (V10), Q7 and A5, but also a Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder for sale. Next to the development and sales of tuning packages ABT offers the service for Audi, Volkswagen, Seat, Skoda and Lamborghini cars. ABT does not offer any packages for Lamborghini’s due to the absence of any true marketing potential. Out of the 2500 vehicles ABT tunes on a yearly basis the A4 and Scirocco are the most popular. Especially the chip tuning of the 3.0 TDi is a money maker.
Other points to be noted are the partnership with KTM and the sales of the K-Bow, but also the test facilities inside and outside the building. As a company making use of its race heritage testing is a key player in the development. Outside the factory they use Hockenheim and the Autobahn A7 – located next to the headquarters – as their main test tracks. Secondly, the engine and roller test stand is one of the most high-tech stands we have come across. Inside a separate section of the building the company has installed a setup to test engines and cars under real conditions taking into account all available components and surrounding parameters. Two bays are available; one for a complete car and one for only an engine.
As with many other tuners ABT offers aerodynamic body kits, wheel and rims sets, suspensions setups, ECU upgrades, exhaust systems, brake kits and technical upgrades like superchargers and turbochargers. The ABT IS Technology is worth discussing because it uses a control chip identifying the type of fuel adjusting the engine management parameters accordingly and thus increasing power by up to 55hp depending on fuel quality. Interesting technique!
On the interior side, there is of course the usual stuff like floor mats, aluminum pedals and foot rests. We have not come across any full interior kits, but upon request anything is possible.
A visit to the headquarters in Kempten is worth any minute of your time. Of course, you should be petrol head or a motorsport enthusiast. On the first floor you will have the option to check out the 70 years of racing. The Motorsport Museum is open Monday to Friday 8 am to 6 pm, Saturday 9 am to 4 pm and Sunday 1 am to 4 pm.