Volkswagen Visitors’ Services Wolfsburg
Volkswagen Visitors’ Services Wolfsburg
Printed in Germany
Where do all the bicycles come from?
How is steel formed? What does a
coil weigh? Where do the robots get
their rhythm? Is Deep Black or Oryx
White in fashion? What do solar units
have to do with aurochs? How often
do cars take a bath? How many parts
are there in a Golf? How do cars
get their quality? Where does “Curry-
wurst” ﬁt into the picture? How do
cars travel? Will we still be ﬁlling up
at the gas station 20 years from now?
Start Visitors’ Services
Monday morning, 10.00 a.m., Gate 17. Since 1948, over six million guests from all over the world
“Welcome to Volkswagen in Wolfsburg,” says the have come to Wolfsburg to experience the production process
tour guide from the Wolfsburg plant Visitors’ at Europe’s largest automaker. 48,000 people work at the
Services. “My name is Torsten Cramm and Wolfsburg plant; 23,000 are directly involved in building cars.
I’m looking forward to showing you round the This is where the Golf, Golf Plus, Touran and Tiguan are
factory today.” The group consists of 25 visitors produced. Every working day, 2,800 new vehicles leave the
8 Power station
Alt-Wolfsburg from Schweißtechnische Lehr- und Versuchs- plant on their way to customers. The Wolfsburg plant is the
anstalt Hanover, a training and educational Volkswagen Group’s largest production facility and also its
institute for welding engineering. The teachers nerve center. 370,000 employees produce 26,600 vehicles
5 and master craftsmen are particularly interested each working day at 61 plants all over the world, provided
in visiting production of the latest-generation they have not been entrusted with other tasks relating to
Gate to R+D Nordstrasse Golf. mobility. That makes the Group one of the largest car man-
South East Gate 7
ufacturers in the world. In Western Europe, every ﬁfth new
For six years now, Torsten Cramm has been car comes from one of the brands belonging to the Group:
accompanying VIPs and specialist groups on Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Scania, SEAT, Škoda,
4 the daily journey that tracks the genesis of Volkswagen Passenger Cars and Volkswagen Commercial
6 each new Volkswagen. Like his 21 colleagues at Vehicles. The spectrum ranges from compact cars to luxury
Visitors’ Services, the trained mechanic used to class vehicles, from city vans to heavy trucks. Volkswagen
Mittelstrasse work in Production and knows his way around sets great store by vocational training for young people to
Sandkamp very well. He is also ﬂuent in two foreign lan- make sure today’s high quality is guaranteed in future, too.
guages. Cramm frequently shows international Volkswagen offers apprenticeships in 23 trades and profes-
guests around the plant. The 35-year old per- sions in Wolfsburg, including vocational training as an
Südstrasse AutoStadt sonally greets each of the 25 visitors on today’s automotive mechatronics technician. The list also includes
Sandkamp Gate 1 Power station
Tower block Gate 6 Gate 17
tour with a handshake and a smile. They cross bookbinders, photographers and cooks.
the road, climb some stairs and take their seats
in the Conferencing Cinema in the Volkswagen “The birthplace of Europe’s largest car maker is a very special
Werkforum. The scene is set for a short ﬁlm place,” tour guide Cramm explains to the visitors. All stra-
which traces the evolution of automotive ideas tegically important decisions are taken in Wolfsburg. Brand
from their inception in Research and Develop- business is coordinated from here; this is where Group
ment right through to their realization on the Research triggers the momentum for technological innova-
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 assembly lines here in Wolfsburg. 15 minutes of tion. The Design Center shapes the appearance and form of
cinema followed by an unforgettable adventure future Volkswagens. “That’s all going on in the background
for all the senses. while we make our way through production,” Torsten Cramm
says, and steers the visitors towards the production halls.
Name: Torsten Cramm Joined VW on: May 1, 1998
Body Shop, Quality Assurance, Assembly
Training: Automotive mechanic, business interpreter, Hobbies: Spending time with friends, travel, motorsport
foreign-language correspondent Favorite food: Italian pasta
Family status: Married Dream: To drive a Lamborghini Gallardo round the
Languages: English, French Nürburgring North Loop.
Volkswagen Group worldwide (as at March 2009)
1.4 Brands: Volkswagen Passenger Cars, Audi, Bentley,
Bugatti, Lamborghini, Scania, SEAT, Skoda,
Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles
Production volume: 26,600 vehicles daily
Work force: 370,000
“Understanding = seeing + touching: That’s quality –
up to 3,400 times a day, for over 60 years.”
Wolfsburg plant (as at March 2009)
3,400 vehicles daily; components, parts
Plant area: 6.57 square kilometers
Building area: 1.6 square kilometers
Road network: 75 kilometers
Rail network: 70 kilometers
„Ladies and gentlemen, I’m afraid we only have Volkswagen emerge at the end of the production chain.” The
time to show you a very small part of the plant tour guides show visitors how all the processes are planned,
today,” Cramm says with a hint of regret in his structured and synchronized. Cramm understands why
voice. Any visitors wanting to tour the whole his guests want to take their own snapshots or ﬁlms as a sou-
plant, maybe walk round the entire premises, venir – but he asks them for their cooperation in refraining
would need two weeks. That’s about the same from ﬁlming or taking photographs while they are on the
time it takes to trek across Gibraltar. “I’m afraid tour. “It’s not because there are any secrecy issues, it’s quite
we can’t manage that this morning,” Cramm simply because we want to protect every employee’s right to
says with a grin. The tour lasts an hour and privacy,” he explains. “And could I please ask you not to lean
20 minutes. By the time it has come to an end out of the train.” There’s plenty of trafﬁc in the production
the visitors will have covered seven kilometers halls.
and not even left the halls.
The train takes the same route as the innumerable logistics
The panorama train with its red leather seats vehicles that move back and forth through the factory deliver-
reminiscent of an open-topped golf cart ing material to the work stations. It’s all about just-in-time,
is ready and waiting. It was specially created so the material arrives at each work station exactly when it
by design students for Visitors’ Services in is needed. These vehicles are joined by the favorite mode of
Wolfsburg a few years ago. Each year, some transport in the production halls – namely the bicycle. A spe-
170,000 people visit Volkswagen in Wolfsburg. cial workshop for the 4,000 bikes opened a few years ago.
Most of them come to collect their new vehi-
cles or to visit the Autostadt. The panorama The tour moves on – passing close by machines, robots and
train takes just over 27,000 specialist visitors people. Cramm explains that Volkswagens are built on a
and Company guests from around the globe three-shift system – that means 24 hours a day, from Monday
on a tour of production each year. There are to Friday. “We need the weekend to rest and to maintain or
no windows or roof to spoil the experience. inspect our production plant.” Along the way, the visitors
A true gentleman, Torsten Cramm waits until pass a special memorial – a red Golf GTI, the 25 millionth
everyone is sitting comfortably before getting Golf, which left the assembly line on March 23, 2007. Torsten
behind the steering wheel, starting the engine Cramm has his work cut out answering innumerable ques-
and moving off. His narrative is relayed to the tions once the tour is over. A quick glance at his watch – the
visitors by microphone. guests from Holland mustn’t be kept waiting. Like all other
visitors, they want to see for themselves how enduring value
Cramm knows that his guests are always im- and lasting quality have been deﬁned over the past 60 years.
pressed by what they see. “Most people only
get one single opportunity during their lifetime
to experience car production at such close quar-
ters. To them, it all seems a bit chaotic and
puzzling, and they’re surprised to see a perfect
Station Press shop
We guide tons of
heavy steel coils
into the press shop
where gentle giants
mold them into
perfect shape. >>
Deep drum beats set the rhythm for the press shop. Every Quality is the top priority right from the very
working day, some 2,500 metric tons of sheet steel are shaped ﬁrst stage in the process. This is why the new
at the shop, with an area of 78,000 square meters, in a six- cutting unit is fully enclosed, keeping all dust
second cycle and 400,000 parts for future car bodies leave the away from the sheet metal blanks. When the
hall. Half of the sheets are intended for further processing on sheet has been unrolled from the coil and
site and half for other plants in the world-wide Volkswagen straightened, it runs into the heart of the cut-
Group production network. 1,900 people work at the Group’s ting unit, where the blanks are cut out of the
largest press shop. sheet by tools applying a massive force of
800 metric tons (8,000 kN). The machine can
Sheet steel arrives at the press shop in coils with lengths of cut up to two blanks with a single stroke and
up to 3,000 meters. Rail cars deliver the steel to the ground the geometry of the blanks is selected to in-
ﬂoor of the press shop just in time. A ceiling-mounted crane crease the speed of the machine and minimize
equipped with a grabber lifts each giant coil, weighing as off-cuts.
much as 27 metric tons, and transfers it to the cutting unit.
Just like a roll of household aluminum foil, the coil is un- This highly advanced plant, which is 70 meters
packed, unrolled and straightened out. The sheet runs be- long in all, allows extremely ﬂexible production.
tween the offset rollers of the straightening machine until Tools can be changed in a matter of minutes.
it is perfectly ﬂat. Where blanks for a side panel complete with
window cutouts were just being produced, force during forming itself, the parts are transferred very
blanks for roof or underbody parts can be cut gently from one deep drawing stage to the next by vacuum
to size after only a brief interruption. Heavy- cups, the feature that gives the press its name.
duty trucks carry the stacked blanks to their
next port of call. Here, deep drawing presses The blank is converted into its ﬁnal shape in a separate tool
force the two-dimensional blanks into their set for each stage. Each tool set consists of a top part, the
ﬁnal, three-dimensional shape. punch, and a bottom part, the die. Blank holders hold the
part in place around its edges. When the punch moves down
Sheet steel is a sensitive and unforgiving ma- at full power, the part is shaped. In the press, the designers’
terial. Extremely careful handling is essential ideas are evident as marks on the tools. The character line
as any error would leave traces on the metal. which gives the new Golf a more dynamic appearance, for
Both people and machinery at the press shop example, can be seen as a groove a few millimeters deep on
work with a high degree of care and accuracy. the tool. Each tool weighs up to 50 metric tons.
The quality of the parts is visually inspected
after each step in the process. Sheet steel parts As each press line produces a variety of different parts,
even with the smallest dents, creases or cracks frequent tool changes are necessary. The six tools are simply
have no chance – they are rejected and return- slid out of one side of the press and other tools are slid in
ed to the steel producer to make new coils. on the other side. It only takes a few minutes to retool the
100 per cent of steel waste from the shop is press for a different body part. This makes production faster
recycled. To ensure quality levels, samples are and more ﬂexible at the same time as saving storage space.
taken during production and compared with With an eye to environmental protection and energy saving,
the original dimensions of the vehicle con- the modernization of machinery is always a key topic at
A gentle giant, the large-capacity vacuum Following inspection, the body parts are stowed in special
press, is waiting for the blanks on line 400. Side containers and transported to the storage area where they
panels, roofs and doors for the Golf, Touran are stored until they are needed either at the nearby body
and Tiguan as well as models of the other shop or at another plant.
Group brands are produced here in six steps.
At 7,300 metric tons (73,000 kN), this press
develops by far the highest force of any in the
shop. To absorb vibration, the press is installed
on reinforced concrete foundations extending
25 meters into the ground. Although the press
is fully enclosed to protect employees, every-
one working in the press shop still needs to wear
ear muffs. While the press exerts a tremendous
Station Body shop
Robots move in a
is built from the
bottom up and is
already as unique
as a ﬁngerprint. >>
Robots operated in a precisely choreographed sequence An aluminum plate with a barcode is fastened
controlled by computers ﬁll the body shop with a rhythmic to the right side member. From this point on,
beat. The body shop covers 147,400 square meters, sufﬁcient the bar code determines the car’s route through
space to house 17 stadiums the size of the Volkswagen Arena. the body shop. On reading the barcode, the
2,400 people work here, and 1,612 robots pass elegantly machinery knows that this is a four-door, left-
through their routines, some of them hissing as they work. hand-drive Golf VI with sliding roof. The color,
The process is 98 percent automated. A high degree of auto- engine option, interior equipment and future
mation ensures high quality levels for Volkswagen bodies. owner are also encoded. Following this “bap-
tism”, the bodyshell is as unique as a finger-
A Volkswagen is created from bottom to top, an approach print.
that provides greater stability. First, the left and right side
members are automatically measured and shortened to the The structure of the body shop is like a river
length required by robots set precisely for the individual basin. Individual parts are made up into
application. Then, the front and rear cross members are assemblies in small streams and tributaries.
added to complete the underbody. Each time a tributary joins the main river, the
body reaches a new stage in its completion.
Assemblies and the body are transferred from
station to station fully automatically, taking
a step forward every thirty seconds. Employees The finished sections head for the main production line
inspect the quality of welds, adhesive bonds and are attached to the underbody by metal clips. The roof
and seams. Individual parts and assemblies are section complete with opening then glides out of the next
regularly removed from the production pro- tributary, just in time. Then the body is transferred to the
cess, automatically measured and returned to measurement and laser welding station. Here, it is important
the production line. to ensure that the body geometry is correct, in line with the
speciﬁed dimensions. The parts are clamped precisely in
Robots swing side panels through the air. The place so that there are no gaps between them and they are
side sections with the character line for this then laser-welded in the sealed cabin. The welding process
Golf VI are just being assembled. Men and is documented by video cameras inside the cabin and can
women gradually add individual parts to the be viewed on monitors outside.
outer side section, including reinforcements
for wiring ducts and headlights. Reinforce- In many bodymaking applications, Volkswagen has re-
ments are also inserted into the front side part. placed spot welding by laser welding. 45 percent of joints
The drum turns and robots weld or braze. now feature a laser seam only tenths of a millimeter thick.
Laser welding produces ﬁne joints from beginning to end
The next step: the outside side part is in the that generate enormous beneﬁts in terms of appearance,
drum. A robot positions the front and rear inner convenience and service life. The customer can see the
side sections, both have just been produced advantages in close panel gaps and hear them too. The noise
simultaneously. Grey jigs grip the assembly level remains very low in the long term. The 60 meters
so tightly that no gaps are left. Then the parts of laser welds on a Golf VI body improve rigidity by some
are spot-welded using metal strips. The drum 90 percent.
turns 180 degrees, releases the side section
and takes up the next one. A robot grabs the When doors, hood, flaps and fenders have been attached,
provisionally clipped side section and transfers the ﬁnished body passes on to the Perceptron measurement
it to stage 130, where welding is completed in station. Optical and digital sensors measure the positions of
a sealed cabin. The use of a drum has made 80 reference points fully automatically, in only three seconds.
this step considerably faster. Up to four stages The ﬁnal step is to inspect the ﬁnish. Experienced employees
can be completed without having to move the scrutinize the body under a bright light. Only immaculate
part, support it or ﬁx it in place again. bodyshells are carried along the electric-powered suspended
monorail system towards the paint shop.
The side section of the Golf consists of 36 in-
dividual parts. One of these parts, a foam pad,
improves the acoustics of the vehicle. In the
paint shop, it will expand and later prevent
noise from the engine compartment from reach-
ing the interior.
Talking about: Safety
The 170 employees in the vehicle safety department at
Volkswagen Research and Development in Wolfsburg pursue
their vision with single-mindedness. Their long-term goal
is accident-free driving, to protect both vehicle occupants
and by-standers. One aspect of their work is particularly im-
portant to them: premium segment technologies should
be available to protect every occupant in any Volkswagen.
They like to talk about “democratizing safety”. And they
move nearer this goal with every new genera- steel which is so hard that it can only be formed when red-hot.
tion of vehicles. Technological options, new The result of all these efforts is higher safety for occupants in
materials and the ﬁndings of their colleagues at the event of a frontal or side crash but no effect on the weight
Volkswagen Accident Research also play a role. of the vehicle, running costs or CO2 emissions.
For each model, the safety experts deliver the
optimum result for the customer. That applies To prevent injury to the driver’s lower extremities, engineers
for active accident prevention systems such worked on the knee airbag as an additional standard fea-
as ESP and passive protection both in the pas- ture. This airbag signiﬁcantly reduces the risk of injury and
senger cell and for pedestrians in the event holds the driver more effectively in the driving seat for his
of a collision. own protection. In addition, the head restraints in the sixth-
generation Golf passenger cell were optimized – these mini-
Passive safety is the result of the perfect inter- mize the impact of recoil on the neck and the spine during
action of many components within fractions a crash, thereby signiﬁcantly reducing the risk of whiplash.
of a second. Crash tests are used on a regular
basis to conﬁrm whether all these components In the event of a serious collision the restraint systems must
do in fact function as reliably as they should. respond within a few milliseconds to allow the airbags to
Each time the test vehicle hits the crash wall, a fully inﬂate. But that shouldn’t happen in the event of a
race against split-second time begins: the body, minor parking accident because it would incur unnecessary
deformation zone, seat belts, belt tensioners, repair costs. So the engineers came up with an innovative
head restraints and airbags have one quarter of concept for the new Golf: crash impact sound sensing. This
a second to prove they can do their job properly. is an electronic system inside the passenger cell that gages
the signals generated by a collision and reliably works out
The protection potential of the Golf V was al- the extent of an impact and the nature of the deformation.
ready very high – but the safety engineers never-
theless scrutinized every detail of the bodyshell The Golf has again proved itself as the best in class in the
for the sixth generation Golf. Accident research crash tests run by Euro NCAP, the new car assessment pro-
had already identiﬁed the importance of cons- gramme set up by several of Europe’s ministries of transport
truction features such as the door window sill and European consumer groups. The new Golf produced
and the B column – areas that were speciﬁcally an excellent performance for frontal crash, side crash and
strengthened. Special attention was paid to pedestrian protection. And because the new Golf is a truly
pedestrian protection: deformation zones near international Volkswagen, the vehicle also meets the stringent
the bumper cross member, under the hood and requirements of the US market regarding rear-end collision
along the fenders minimize the risk of injury thanks to passenger cell stability, the tank ﬁller neck design
to anyone in the vicinity of the vehicle. The and the location of the fuel tank in front of the rear axle.
designers have enhanced protection potential
without increasing weight – by optimizing
cross-sectional proﬁles and using high-strength
Station Paint shop
becomes a gleaming
masterpiece in the
paint shop. The perfect
outer skin protects
every Volkswagen –
come sun, wind or
The bodyshells arriving at the paint shop still have a uni- Although all the steel sheet used is galvanized,
form grey color, but that is about to change. 1,212 paint shop this protective layer can nevertheless easily
employees at Wolfsburg make sure that each Volkswagen is be scratched during body assembly. For added
given an unblemished skin. protection, each body is therefore coated with
zinc phosphate in a giant vat. Then the cata-
The bodyshells are delivered to hall 12. Bodies to be painted phoretic dip coat is applied. The body is dipped
the same color are grouped together to save material and in a tank with 500 cubic meters of solution; an
conserve resources. The sequence of painting is deﬁned in electric charge is then applied so that the paint
advance by the logistics control center. Each batch includes particles are attracted by and adhere to the
ﬁve to ten bodies of the same color. First they are attached body. The subsequent drying process initiates
to transport frames and bathed, a process that is repeated a chemical reaction and the cataphoretic coat
13 times because each body must be entirely free from lubri- is permanently bonded to the metal surface.
cants, oils and greases if the ﬁller and top coats are to adhere
perfectly in the long term. The Golf enters and leaves the coating tank
“head-ﬁrst”. In contrast, the Touran completes
The skin of a Volkswagen consists of ﬁve layers: ﬁrst comes a somersault, standing upside down in the
the zinc phosphate primer, followed by a cataphoretic dip tank for a short time. Whether the body enters
coating, a ﬁller coat, the top coat ordered by the customer the solution from the front, the back or upside
and the protective clear coat. down, the angle of immersion is the key factor
in ensuring that the entire body is flooded called “Amarilis” and a silver with “champagne effect” given
with the solution. Production planners iden- the poetic name of “Silver Leaf”. And the Wolfsburg paint
tify the effects of the immersion angle on the shop has developed a very special effect through to series
results. They continually analyze all steps introduction, the “mother of pearl” color “Oryx White”.
in the production process right down to the Special pigments create a white effect suggesting three-
last detail with a view to optimizing produc- dimensional depth.
tivity and improving the quality of the results.
A new transport frame can be set to different But fantastic appearance is not enough. New paints must
immersion angles. meet strict criteria to qualify for this huge paint shop which
handles up to 3,450 bodies per day. Day after day, the paint
This stage is followed by a quality check. The must deliver the same high-quality performance. And each
zinc phosphate and cataphoretic dip coatings paint must also achieve perfect results in the repair shop.
are intended to provide durable protection
against corrosion. A skid then carries the body At the new paint shop in Wolfsburg, Volkswagen only uses
to Hall 15b via an “air bridge” for underbody water-based paints. All detergents and cleaning agents
protection. All the panel joints are sealed by a are solvent-free and toxic heavy chemicals have been entire-
PVC coating, after which the body is cleaned. ly eliminated from the process. What emerges from the
This is almost like a car wash, except that it is chimneystacks is virtually pure water vapor. This approach
a dry process. Emu feathers remove even the protects the environment and the health of local residents.
tiniest specks of duct. All paint shop workers
wear lint-free special clothing as even a minute The top layer of the paintwork, the “clear coat” gives the car
ﬁber could spoil the results. a sparkling appearance and ensures that the ﬁnish retains its
initial gloss for many years. After drying, it’s time to switch
In individual booths, robots apply the filler the lights on. Each individual body runs through a brightly lit
coat, which evens out small irregularities and tunnel with lighting designed to avoid any shadows so that
gives the outer skin a certain elasticity, pro- quality inspectors can scrutinize the ﬁnish. If the color and
tecting the car against stone chips. In the next gloss are right and the results are immaculate, the ﬁnal step
step, the application of the base coat, both the now follows. The underbody cavities are sealed using hot
interior and the exterior take on color. Han- wax.
dling robots open the doors, hood and tailgate,
while painting robots apply paint to the inte- The gleaming bodyshells then make their way to the high-
rior. Details are reworked manually. The outer bay warehouse in Hall 26, where up to 960 painted bodies
skin is applied in an electrostatic process by wait until they are needed for assembly.
high-speed rotary atomizers.
Customers can order a Golf in any of 23 colors.
New colors now available include “Shark Blue”,
“Deep Black”, a clear, intensive shade of red
Talking about: The environment
A gray heron is standing motionless in the And they are not the only species to have rediscovered a
water waiting patiently for the next catch. The pleasant spot.
reeds rustle in the wind and a little further
downriver a coot is sitting on its eggs. An idyllic Three kilometers of dead-straight canal have given way to
setting – right outside the North gate in Kästorf. meadow biotopes. To make sure ﬂood protection is not com-
You can watch nature from the bridge literally promised, a second arm of the Aller now winds its way along
only a few steps from the Wolfsburg plant. the river bed. Stream channels based on historical examples
were laid to keep the water in the meadows. The southern-
Over 100 hectares of marshland have been cre- most waters enjoy the shade of the elder trees in summer.
ated. This low wet ground, the zone between
water and dry land, is a much sought-after hab- Anyone walking from Kästorf towards Warmenau is likely to
itat for birds, amphibians, insects and plants. encounter an animal from times long past: the auroch. The
Nevertheless, the Aller River was canalized in species became extinct in the 16th century until zoo curators
1840. Water was drained to make way for arable began breeding them back into existence from domestic
land and high agricultural yields. Many species cattle that were their descendants. 22 aurochs and some wild
of ﬂora and fauna departed as the water re- ponies crop the meadows, keeping the vegetation short and
ceded. But they are now gradually returning. thus creating a habitat for grasshoppers and frogs – in turn
providing food for the storks.
Volkswagen and the city of Wolfsburg decided
to jointly renaturalize the Aller marshes. Un- Volkswagen is committed to the protection of the environ-
der the project, new biotopes or green spaces ment and the conservation of resources – this applies for
replace those lost when new halls or buildings all Volkswagen products, at all plants and in the production
are erected. That is what nature conservation process itself. That is why solar cells are installed on the roofs
legislation dictates. What started out as eco- of the production halls along “Mittelstrasse” here in Wolfs-
logical compensation a few years ago is now burg. There are plans to extend the project to cover the entire
acknowledged by nature conservation socie- plant, thereby generating some of the power required by
ties, the Ministry of the Environment and the factory. Germany has the chair of the “Conference Of The
walkers alike. Parties” (COP), the governing body of the United Nations’
Convention on Biological Diversity, until 2010. Volkswagen
The canal has a rectangular cross-section – will become more closely involved in this initiative and a
14 meters wide and one meter deep. It would commitment to this effect has already been made by the
have been very dangerous for the gray herons Volkswagen Board of Management to the Federal Minister of
to try catching ﬁsh here because they would the Environment. Working groups are currently developing
have had to nosedive over one meter. Now concepts suited to protecting natural diversity – not just
armor stones have been laid at three levels in along the Aller River here in Wolfsburg.
the water channel and reinforced with earth
to create different water depths. The gray her-
ons are frequent visitors at the shallow end.
Overhead, the new
Volkswagen glides to
the next assembly line,
where the “marriage”
of the body and the
powertrain takes place.
A car is born. >>
Assembly, Hall 54, 56,000 square meters. Here, the Golf body Volkswagen provides its customers with mobil-
is converted into a complete vehicle with all creature com- ity in the form of vehicles tailored precisely
forts. Some 5,500 employees, 66 robots and 43 manipulators to their needs. More than three million variants
are at work here round the clock every working day. of the Golf are available and even the most
popular options come in as many as 300,000
A red body enters the hall on the chain conveyor. A barcode combinations. The wide range of variants calls
label deﬁning all the features of the future car is attached to for considerable ﬂexibility on the part of design-
the left fender. The label is printed and hung under the hood, ers, engineers and assembly staff. This is the
so that all the future assembly steps are clear to everyone part of the plant where most people are em-
working on the assembly line. Minute by minute, the body ployed. People insert seals into door openings,
begins to look more and more like a car. On average, a Golf where they are pressed evenly against the body
consists of about 8,000 components, but at this stage, the by machines. The next stage is to clean the
number has just been reduced by four. The doors have been window contact surface and to apply primer
removed and assembly work on them continues in parallel to to bond the windows to the paint. The primer
the body. This approach makes interior work easier. then has sufﬁcient time to dry completely.
At Wolfsburg, Volkswagens are produced on
the upper ﬂoor. The assembly of the dashboard
for this particular Golf is just being completed.
It features everything the customer ordered:
instruments, navigation system, air condition-
ing plus wood, plastic or aluminum trims.
When the cockpit is delivered to the assembly
ﬂoor by a driverless transfer car, the ignition
key is already in the lock. Just in time assembly
is the watchword. The logistics control room
makes sure everything runs smoothly.
The transfer car ﬁnds the right position on the In the meantime, the primer has fully hardened and the
line without a driver. An employee operates the windscreen and rear window can be inserted. Robots take
cockpit manipulator which guides the cockpit the windows, apply adhesive, and press the panes into
weighing around 50 kilos in through the left- place, checking quality. The brake lines arrive; they have
hand door opening. The cockpit is positioned just been bent into shape in the bending center next to
with the manipulator taking certain reference the assembly line. For the 2,300 Golfs produced every day,
points on the body for orientation. The assem- the machines need to bend some 20 kilometers of pipes.
bly line operative bolts the cockpit into place
on the left and right and fastens it to the bulk- In the next stage in assembly, the vehicle is attached to a
head from the engine compartment. Only then rotary hanger. Brake lines are installed and parking brake
does he retract the manipulator from the body. cables are connected. The vehicles can be tilted up to
45 degrees in each direction, allowing assembly line oper-
The wire harness is rolled out and installed atives to work at a comfortable level. The rear bumper,
from the dashboard. The body then hovers front end and wheels are ﬁtted by machines. Each indi-
away under the ceiling to the next assembly vidual step, including compliance with the required
line. The people here work on a wooden ﬂoor torque value for light alloy wheels, is carefully monitored
to reduce the stress on their backs and joints. and documented in the assembly card accompanying
Each generation of vehicles means a further the vehicle.
step forward in workplace design, plus further
advances in occupational health. This is why Then, it’s back to manual work. The vehicle is positioned
the body is positioned on an elevator table on a platform and assembly workers follow it along the line,
which can be raised and lowered up to two installing the steering wheel, driver’s airbag, seats and
meters. Following each assembly step, the table central console. The doors arrive just in time together with
is automatically raised or lowered together with their vehicle and are also installed. Operating ﬂuids are ﬁlled
the body, making work easier for the people in. When the vehicles reach ﬁnal assembly in Hall 12, they
installing seatbelts and sliding roofs. are standing on their own four wheels for the ﬁrst time and
assembly is already 90 percent complete. Experienced em-
Now the bodyshell ﬁnally becomes a vehicle. ployees adjust the panel gaps and the electronic check-out
In the “marriage”, the running gear and power- system monitors the functions of electronic components.
train are joined to the body. At the beginning Assembly of the Golf is only complete when the Volkswagen
of this stage in the proceedings, the vehicle logo is in place.
identiﬁcation number is stamped on the body.
The codes in the engine compartment and
interior must match that on the powertrain.
Then the Golf body “marries” its engine, but
with screws instead of rings.
The employee places a small bench inside the car body and Experts from the Health Service, Planning,
kneels down on it. He bends forward and backward, always Industrial Engineering and IT departments in
working with his arms raised. Fixing, ﬁtting, connecting Wolfsburg developed a software solution to
cables – 380 times per shift. That is how an airbag used to check the physical stress on employees at each
be assembled. At Volkswagen, this particular production workplace. The software facilitates a standard-
routine is a thing of the past, now archived for posterity on ized assessment of all work processes. For each
video. Employees from the Industrial Engineering and Con- work step, the software evaluates standing,
trol department like to show the video to other experts to sitting or kneeling, the use of hands, arms or
demonstrate how easily small measures can represent a big ﬁngers and the amount of force an employee
step forward in enhancing occupational health and opti- must exert when lifting, pulling or pushing. The
mizing the work process. ﬁndings resemble a vehicle assembly manual.
Negative points are given for physical stress,
and each workplace is graded like a trafﬁc light:
green means fewer than 25 points, yellow is up
to 50 points and everything over 50 is graded red.
Talking about: Ergonomics
The goal is green workplaces. Ralph Pietsch work envelope is currently being drawn up for the entire
from Industrial Engineering can optimize work- plant. In future, when production planners add up the time
places with this goal in mind from the com- needed for processes, the ergonomic assessment is also
puter in his ofﬁce. Often, all it takes is to rotate only a mouse click away. Vice versa, once Ralph Pietsch has
the tasks allocated to different employees. That finished optimizing a work step, he often discovers that
can improve the grade from yellow to green, he has generated an added advantage by minimizing the
or a red workplace can progress to yellow. “On time that step requires, too. Small hitches, hardly noticeable
paper, we were conﬁdent this would happen, in themselves, but which really eat up time when they are all
and our actual ﬁndings have conﬁrmed our taken together are often due to the unrecognized physical
theory,” Pietsch says. Sometimes a different stress generated by some work steps. Identifying and reme-
tool is needed – a screwdriver with a longer dying these stress factors has a positive effect on employee
handle, for instance, means it is no longer nec- motivation and health.
essary for an employee to work with their
hands above shoulder level. But if, like the old “Just like society, our workforce is aging, too,” says Begoña
head airbag assembly point, the workplace Toledo, who is responsible for occupational ergonomics at
is well into the red points, the solution is con- the Volkswagen Group and will be rolling out the ergono-
siderably more complex. mics process worldwide. It’s important for an employer like
Volkswagen to cater for this trend in workplace ergonomics
Hall 12, Assembly Line 1: innovative ideas at an early stage.
from the ergonomic experts were integrated in
the new Tiguan assembly process right from It wouldn’t just have been the older employees who would
the outset. This is a model project for industry have faced a high risk of damaging their joints if they had
throughout Europe. Today’s head airbag work- worked at the tailgate wiring assembly point in the old days.
place bears no resemblance at all to the process A stooped posture, arms above shoulder level, screwing,
documented on the video: the employee sits twisting and turning, pushing and pressing – deﬁnitely a
down on an ergonomically-designed assembly case of dark red! The new assembly line seat only lightened
line seat, gives a little push with his feet and the shade. Now, the assembly line employee rotates with a
moves up into the body of the Tiguan. He can colleague from the airbag control unit assembly point – that
position himself comfortably in the seat while varies the daily routine and both workplaces have been
he is working. And once the job has been com- graded yellow.
pleted, he gives himself another little push and
the seat takes him back out of the body. Dark The next generation of vehicles will see many workplaces
red has turned to a pleasant green. turn to green. The ergonomic work envelope database also
links with the design plans. This means that ergonomics
The movements performed at every work- features at an early stage in the design process. A different
place along the Tiguan assembly line have been tailgate design, for instance, would represent a small change
recorded in detail, assessed in terms of ergo- with a big impact – both for the assembly workers and for
nomics and optimized. This kind of ergonomic the Volkswagen ergonomic work envelope.
Talking about: Teamwork
Team 7 is semi-autonomous in the way it or- There’s a team meeting today: Thursday, 9.30 a.m. Usbeck
ganizes its work. This independence includes welcomes the new colleague. “I hope you’ll feel at home
workflows which are optimized as part of here,” the team spokesperson says. All qualiﬁcations for the
the Continuous Improvement Process (CIP). new team member have been planned in advance. Quality
It also includes qualiﬁcations for team mem- will only be right if everyone in the team has the same knowl-
bers, roster planning and conﬂict manage- edge level. Next on the agenda: work changes. The Tiguan
ment. The team headed by team spokesperson is built here at the new Assembly Line 1 in Hall 12. Usbeck
Michael Usbeck meets once a fortnight to and his colleagues are responsible for the “supermarket”.
discuss the latest news and developments. Plant logistics delivers the material which Team 7 has com-
missioned on behalf of Team 10 – a logistics production
function. Each basket sent to Team 10 for powertrain assem-
bly must contain exactly the right items and be delivered on
time. Usbeck’s team guarantees this process reliability. The
shelves always contain one blue just-in-sequence basket
per vehicle – that’s 150 baskets per shift, ready at exactly the
time the items are needed for assembly.
Now, the shelves at Team 10 are to be reorgan- Usbeck’s job takes some of the strain off the foreman, who
ized with a view to optimizing workﬂow. The can focus more closely on his operational responsibilities.
colleagues must make the necessary prepara- Usbeck has been with Volkswagen for 20 years. Seminars
tions. “We’ll be rebuilding ten meters of shelv- taught him leadership skills, how to assess improvements
ing – we decided that last week,” Usbeck says. and what makes for good conﬂict management. He spends
And – the colleagues from plant logistics some of his time on organization. There’s a coordination
have taken away the empty baskets from the meeting for the team spokespersons once a fortnight. This
supermaket. Usbeck has made a sign that is where they exchange experience and discuss what’s hap-
he wants to hang on the shelves to make sure pening at Volkswagen.
that doesn’t happen again.
Every team member learns how to look at their department
Teamwork is one step along the Volkswagen from an entrepreneurial perspective. That generates CIP ideas
Way, part of Volkswagen’s strategy for the which are put into practice swiftly and unbureaucratically.
future. This new form of cooperation has been Most of the time these are minor alterations with a big impact
introduced in all areas at the Wolfsburg plant. – after all, it’s the employees themselves who know best
It enhances production dynamics and ﬂexi- just what a big difference a small change can make. And, as
bility. Information travels much faster. Teams a result, every single employee plays a proactive role in the
are responsible for predeﬁned areas. That in- company.
creases the employees’ sense of responsibility
Roy Mauß has been with Volkswagen for eleven
years. This is his ﬁrst team job. “Teams have
their advantages. You used to be just one little
cog in the big machine, now you have respon-
sibility and a role to play in your own team,”
he says. What Georg Niedergeseß appreciates
most is the sense of solidarity, a true team
spirit which thrives on the regular discussions.
“I always say let’s be frank and honest with each
other. And that’s exactly what we do,” Michael
Station Test rigs
The ﬁrst sound, the
ﬁrst drive, the ﬁrst
function test: after
learn to ESP. >>
Final assembly is the last stage in the production of the Golf. During assembly, the 42 electronic control units
The car can now be driven under its own power. The ignition on board the Golf have stored a large volume
key is inserted and turned, the engine starts. It is always a of data. To avoid problems with later tests and
Volkswagen employee who hears the first sound. He takes ensure that all the electronic systems are per-
over the new car and steers it for its ﬁrst 70 meters through fectly synchronized, the memories need to be
Hall 12 to one of the 16 test rigs. erased. The body control module, responsible
for coordinating communication within the
Every Golf, Golf Plus, Touran or Tiguan still has to pass its entire on-board network, is therefore reset to
tests. The 72 employees proceed with caution. At the be- zero.
ginning of their shift, they have already removed all jewelry
and covered their wristwatches and belt buckles with Velcro The next stop is the steering station. The steer-
strips. There you can see the Tiguan, here the Golf; each ing angle sensors are adjusted. For this purpose,
model has its own running-in rig. Initially, the vehicle is the steering wheel is turned to full lock on both
moved over the axle, lighting and steering station by a chain sides and then returned to its central position.
conveyor. While an employee in the pit sets the camber, The electronic system then knows the position
toe-in and axle alignment, a colleague on the level above is of the steering wheel for driving straight ahead.
busy with headlights and fog lights. The steering wheel is
set to a perfectly central position.
For the trip to roller test rig 1, an experienced trims, shelves and stowage spaces. Do the door reﬂectors
running-in driver takes his place on the driver’s work properly? Their objective is to ensure tested quality,
seat. He connects up the tester and drives right down to the last detail.
into the test unit. “Brake test. Accelerate to
80 km/h” – the monitor tells the driver exactly Now, the Golf is allowed onto the road for the ﬁrst time,
what to do, for example, “brake using the hand- for precisely 625 meters over railway tracks, cobblestones
brake” or “brake using the foot brake”. The and bumps. The vibration track is also used for acoustic
new car is held in position by air-ﬁlled cushions testing. A loose screw or a tool left in the vehicle would be
for protection. Anti-lock brake system (ABS), noticed at this stage. Then the ESP system is trained in a
electronic differential lock (EDL) and cruise deﬁned S-bend. The sensors must detect the inclination
control – the electronic programs are precisely of the vehicle and ensure that the four wheels are braked
adjusted and tested. individually and in a harmonized way for the ﬁrst time.
At this point, the warning light in the cockpit goes out and
On to roller test rig 2. The tests depend on the inspector knows that the ESP system is functioning
the engine option. The monitor may call for properly.
“1,600 rpm in third gear”, “30 km/h in third
gear” or “2,700 rpm in ﬁfth gear”. Again and In Hall 30, the new vehicle has to stand up to a monsoon.
again, the command is “brake to a standstill”. Water is sprayed onto the paintwork from ﬁne nozzles all
By now, the engine has reached normal oper- around the car to test whether it is waterproof. After it has
ating temperature and it’s time to check and been cleaned, the water is recycled for the next vehicle
adjust the emission values. On the ﬁnishing tests. Using an instrument developed especially for the
line, the tester polls the results of the tests purpose, the experienced quality inspector searches for
which have been completed electronically. traces of moisture in the interior – even between the seats
and under the carpets. Normally, his search is fruitless.
Now, it’s over to the quality inspectors. Have all Each step is recorded on the card accompanying the vehicle,
the safety-relevant components been properly stamped and signed. A ﬁle of this type accompanies each
installed? The inspectors read the barcode on vehicle on its journey through production. After the vehicle
the right-hand side member using a portable has left the plant, the ﬁle is archived for ten years.
computer and can check the installation of all
the parts. The brake lines, seat belts and airbags It is only now, in Hall 30, that the inspector applies his
have been installed perfectly, so the Golf can sticker with a white “Q” on a green background, to the wind-
pass through a light tunnel for the ﬁfth time. screen. Everyone in Wolfsburg is familiar with the sticker
Experienced quality inspectors walk around symbolizing the goal shared by all employees, to deliver
the vehicle. With a trained eye, they critically quality to the customer. Over the past 45 minutes, the Golf
scrutinize every detail from the customer’s has shown that “value” is more than just a word – you can
point of view, checking whether doors, lids and experience it in practice here.
ﬂaps close perfectly. They sit on each seat in
the car, inspect the workmanship of interior
Talking about: Currywurst
Volkswagen has established quite a gourmet the sausage skins and left in the smoking chamber for a short
reputation at high-caliber occasions and events; time. No phosphate, no ﬂavor enhancers, no lactoprotein –
the Volkswagen “Currywurst” is famous the just plenty of meat and only 21 percent fat. An exclusive sau-
world over. While the origin of this culinary sage of the highest quality.
delight is still a bone of contention between
Berlin and the Ruhr region, Volkswagen has Last year the Volkswagen butchers produced 3.35 million
elevated the Currywurst to international fame. Currywurst. That’s 798 kilometers of sausage – the distance
The Currywurst travels all over the world – from Wolfsburg to Munich.
sometimes in the original version, sometimes
as a famous recipe – but always as a regional But the Currywurst’s fame has spread even farther aﬁeld.
delicacy from the home of Volkswagen. Volkswagen’s star chef Nils Potthast, who is responsible
for catering at top international events, has introduced the
The history of the Volkswagen Currybockwurst, snack to polite society. “Our Currywurst is very popular
to give it its full name, is a recipe for success. everywhere.” It is served in a glass – hot, sliced and gar-
In 1973, it was still the prerogative of ten works nished with “Volkswagen ketchup,” accompanied by bread.
canteens frequented by the Wolfsburg work- High-society fast food. At the Geneva Motor Show, or the
force, but employees at other German plants Frankfurt International Motor Show – Currywurst is served
soon wanted to sample the delights of the round the clock. As Potthast says with a grin, “journalists
curried sausage as well. Nowadays, the famous have started asking for our Currywurst.”
Volkswagen sausage even features as a regular
in-store item at the cold cuts counter of a big If there is a ban on importing the original made in Germany
supermarket chain. to a particular country, a butcher from the Service Factory
travels to the venue in the run-up to the event and shows his
The sausage is made on site in the butcher’s local colleagues how to make the delicacy on the premises.
shop at the Volkswagen Service Factory. Six At the Detroit Motor Show, for example, where the US
experienced butchers make the sausages from butchers made 900 sausages, no one imagined these would
a closely-guarded recipe. Day in, day out, they all have been eaten by the end of the ﬁrst day. A Chinese
ﬁll the sausage skins with award-winning butcher based in Beijing was commissioned to produce the
top quality ingredients – the Currywurst is a Currywurst for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. “Hygiene
frequent winner of the gold medal presented has to be up to our standards,” Potthast says. The spice
by DLG, the German Agricultural Society. mixture is a secret – it is delivered from Germany. Almost
The contents reﬂect the quality of the sausage: 10,000 Currywurst in a glass were served during the Olympic
pork and bacon from pigs reared locally by Games, with Volkswagen adding an exotic highlight to the
certiﬁed animal husbandry methods is mixed versatile Chinese cuisine.
with six spices. The mixture is pressed into
From coils to fuel ﬁller
caps – Volkswagen
Logistics makes sure
that over 8,000 parts
from all over the world
come together just in
time to create the perfect
A never-ending stream of materials ﬂows through the Wolfs- Every working day, some 1,900 companies sup-
burg plant under the efﬁcient control of logistics employees. ply raw materials, parts and system assemblies
Logistics is crucially important. Continuous production at to Wolfsburg from plants around the world.
the plant would be impossible without optimum organization 150 rail cars arrive fully laden with steel coils for
and perfect timing. the press shop or coal for the two power plants.
Volkswagen operates its own sidings especially
Steel coils from France, Belgium or Germany, engines from for the purpose, comparable with a medium-
Salzgitter, gearboxes from Kassel, components from Wolfs- sized marshalling yard of Deutsche Bahn. On
burg and other products from sources around the world. average, about 170,000 rail cars arrive or depart
A Golf consists of 8,000 parts. Logistics experts know which every year.
vehicle is produced when for which customer and which
parts need to be delivered where exactly when they are need- Each day, 600 trucks enter the plant. Some of
ed for installation. these deliver parts to the component produc-
tion warehouse while others supply parts from
The goods are delivered by truck or rail. The material is either other Volkswagen plants to Wolfsburg, in-
processed on the production line in Wolfsburg or shipped to cluding gearboxes from Kassel, engines from
other production plants in Volkswagen’s international pro- Salzgitter and axles from Brunswick.
Every fifth truck heads for Hall 55, the main Only about ten percent of the Volkswagens produced are
marshalling area for the Golf, Golf Plus and delivered to the Autostadt, where they can be collected by
Tiguan assembly lines. Every day, some 3,500 customers in person. All the others are shipped using low-
containers arrive here. Following inspection loaders, trucks and rail cars. On average, 350,000 vehicles
to ensure completeness and quality, the parts leave the plant on trucks and low-loaders.
are taken into stock and transferred by con-
veyors to the warehouse, which has a capacity Up to 150 two-level freight cars are loaded, each with ten
of 22,000 containers. The material in stock is new vehicles, in a working day. On average, 310,000 vehicles
always sufﬁcient for two to three days of pro- leave Wolfsburg by rail every year. Taking a look at vehicles
duction. waiting to be loaded on the parking deck of the sidings, you
can see which of the cars are going to travel furthest. Vehi-
From the warehouse, parts are supplied just in cles to be delivered overseas are shrouded in white covers to
time to the assembly lines on the upper storey protect them against damage.
of Hall 54 where the Golf and Golf Plus are as-
sembled. Material is also supplied to the door When a working day ends at Wolfsburg, 24 million parts have
and cockpit assembly units on the ground ﬂoor been handled and delivered to the correct destination as and
of Hall 54 and to order picking units on both when they were needed. More than 3,000 new Volkswagens
ﬂoors; transfer cars take parts from these units have been produced and sent on their journey to customers
to the production line precisely as they are throughout the world.
needed for installation on a speciﬁc vehicle.
Every working day, personnel in Hall 55 handle
some 280,000 parts for the Golf and Golf Plus.
Lists of the parts needed for the next 15 to 30
vehicles are printed, the parts are removed
from their containers by fork-lift trucks, placed
on the sequencing cars and transferred to the
assembly line by electric trucks.
There is a steady coming and going, with parts
arriving, being distributed or collected and
leaving all the time. At the Wolfsburg plant,
modules are also preassembled, body parts
produced and sheet blanks cut for distribution
to the other plants in the Group’s production
network. Cut-offs and steel scrap are returned
to the steel producer by rail car. And new Volks-
wagens are produced for loading the same day.
The VW works railway
Today, Walter Große is the navigator and Bernd currently being used by several shunting teams. A bleep
Schaper is doing the steering. They are both can be heard at regular intervals. “That’s the dead-man –
shunting yard drivers – two out of a total 29 he wants to know if I’m still alive,” Schaper explains. If he
employees who team up in pairs and trust doesn’t respond to the safety device, the train will be auto-
each other implicitly. Große is standing on the matically stopped: “If my foot’s on the pedal I have to lift
freight car farthest away from the locomotive it once every 40 seconds.”
watching the train, keeping his eyes peeled
for anyone in the vicinity of the rails, checking The works railway and its team of 88 is an internal service
the points and the signals at the crossings. provider; its customers are various VW departments. One
Schaper is driving the locomotive. They can’t of the team’s dispatchers takes the orders from production or
see each other, but they’re in constant radio sales – up to 20,000 a year; working in three shifts, 70 orders
contact. Everything’s ready: Schaper sounds are processed each day. 170,000 freight cars are loaded
the horn. Then, picking up the microphone, he and unloaded each year at Europe’s largest private railroad.
says “Walter, all set!” He doesn’t start moving At Volkswagen, rail transport also helps to protect the envi-
until Große replies: “Let’s go!” The safety of col- ronment. A dispatcher plans the journeys and radios them
leagues outside is paramount. to one of the seven shunting teams. The signalman knows
which locomotive needs which route and when, and clears
Now they’re on the move – maximum speed the line. Schaper and Große like their work: “We’re out
is 15 kilometers per hour. Every day, they ply in the fresh air every day and we’re in touch with so many
the 70 kilometers of rail track that make up the departments.” Even before they reach Signal Box West, they
VW works railway at the Wolfsburg plant. And both know they’ll be delivering coils to the press shop after
they’re carrying a valuable cargo: 24 freight cars this job. Then they’ll collect scrap from the press shop for
each loaded with ten new vehicles. They have weighing, and will couple empty freight cars.
just coupled at the loading station in Hall 40,
now they’re on their way to the marshalling Half an hour later they’re pushing 18 freight cars in front of
yard at the plant perimeter. There, the cars will the locomotive – that’s over 800 metric tons. They need
be collected later the same day by a Deutsche to cross the road at “Mittelstrasse”. Große: “Signal active.”
Bahn freight train – everything timed like clock- Schaper moves forward – while the ﬁrst cars are already
work. These particular cars are being shipped being shunted into the press shop, his locomotive is still on
to overseas destinations and are shrouded in the other side of the road. That temporarily halts trafﬁc on
white protective covers. the road. “But our colleagues know we always try to be as
quick as possible.”
“Six lengths to go”, says Große’s voice from out-
side the train. Schaper acknowledges by radio.
A length is the length of a freight car, 12 to
14 meters. This helps Schaper to know exactly
when to slow down. He concentrates on listen-
ing to the babble of voices – this frequency is
Station Group Research
We can’t make the
sun shine today. But
we do have a say
in shaping the future. >>
New technologies, new sources of energy, demographic Mr. Müller-Pietralla, as a future researcher,
change in Western Europe, climate change – the Volkswagen when you look ahead 20 years what kind
Group has been addressing tomorrow’s challenges for quite of Volkswagen do you think I would be inter-
some time now. The “Future Research and Trend Transfer” ested in? I would suggest the “Room”.
department, for example, works towards identifying sustain- Why? Room symbolizes living space. We can
able solutions. The team headed by future researcher relax and chat while the autopilot does the driv-
Wolfgang Müller-Pietralla functions as an interface for Group ing. We can sit face-to-face because the steer-
Research in Wolfsburg. 15 scientists from various disciplines ing wheel vanishes completely. We won’t feel
analyze trends, data and facts from the world of technology we’re sitting in a car, we’ll feel we’re traveling
and from society, investigating their impact on market devel- in a mobile living room or ofﬁce.
opments and the evolution of customer wants all over the What does that feel like? Comfortable: we can
world. The key task of the department is to raise awareness adapt the interior to suit our emotions and
about possible trends within the Group and to translate ﬁnd- needs whenever we like. Ultrathin monitors
ings into corporate strategy along with mobility and vehicle inside the cabin and at the seats would make
concepts. that possible.
Is that like interior decorating at the touch of
a switch? Exactly. It’s a virtual living concept
where the real and virtual worlds interact.
Does that mean I can’t look out of the window? And what happens at a red trafﬁc light? Who says we will
Yes, you can, but you don’t have to. You could need traffic lights in 20 years’ time? Maybe the vehicles of
take a virtual trip to the Mediterranean and the future will communicate with each other. That would
smell the sea. “Mixed reality” is the term we use make them even safer. And perhaps we could make trafﬁc
to describe another possibility where real and ﬂow really smoothly if we could make the trafﬁc rule book
virtual information complement each other. much simpler. None of us has given enough thought to that
If we’re driving past the Brandenburg Gate in yet.
Berlin or the Wolfsburg plant, for instance, the Will public transport change? Yes, one possibility is a ﬂeet
mixed reality scenario means we can access system in big cities. I press a button, the system locates me
information on these locations and even make and I tell it where I want to alight. That would dispense with
a virtual visit – it’s a bit like a guided tour, but ﬁxed stops. There would be a network of vehicles, rather
we don’t have to leave our car. In the Room like an intelligent swarm, that adapts itself to people’s travel
we are constantly networked with collective patterns.
intelligence. Will the swarm be in operation 20 years from now? I hope
If the network doesn’t crash … . I’m talking so, because optimizing urban transport systems is one of the
about Web 5.0 or 6.0. At the moment we’re only biggest challenges we face.
just moving towards the third version. And And what are the challenges for the Volkswagen Group?
we are ﬁnding that more and more people are Moving away from oil, because there will be a drastic decline
saving their information in databases which in reserves; the climate, the environment, the development
would then be available to everyone. of economic systems, the rising demand for mobility all over
What powers the Room? That depends on the the world. We will beneﬁt a great deal from developments
customer’s needs. If the car is stationary for in communication technology. In future, cars and production
eight hours at a stretch, the customer can easily robots will be better adapted to people and their abilities –
recharge an electric battery. But if the customer and that is a boon for an aging society.
only spends 15 minutes in one place, energy What is the basis for your work at Future Research? We know
needs to be supplied very quickly. Our vehicles the most important trends and all the key factors that impact
will be designed for all types of fuel. And on developments. And we look at all of these in different
it doesn’t matter what powers them: we won’t scenarios. We don’t work with one rigid vision of the future.
experience any drive noise or vibrations. We model several different futures, some more probable,
But then we won’t feel we’re moving? Yes we some less so.
will, don’t forget centrifugal force. The laws of Are you skeptical or positive about the future? We must raise
physics apply when you’re cornering. awareness today and act accordingly. Inaction is the only
attitude that will lead to a future no one wants. So it makes
sense to proactively shape a future that we can all look for-
ward to living in.
The rhythm of machines in the press
shop. The smell of metal and hydrau-
lic ﬂuid. Sparks ﬂy. Robots hiss as they
weld steel sheets in graceful unison.
Counting point three: Beware, lasers
at work! Transport sleds whirr past –
just in time supplies. Hands press
switches and move levers. Deep Black
and Oryx White glide across the ceil-
ing. Conveyor chains rattle. Body to
body, in a long row. Floating towards
the next station. The making of a new