Thousands of guests visit the Volkswagen Group locations every day. Here they have the opportunity to find out what processes make our cars so safe and how electric drives are changing the vehicles of the future.
“Please get in. Soon you’ll see Europe’s largest car factory,” says Rene Busch. The employee from the Guest Relations department makes an inviting gesture, takes a seat behind the wheel of the e-Golf* and starts the motor. Intrigued, guests from the Dortmund Motorsport Club hop in the vehicles behind the e-Golf. They woke up early that morning to take a more than three-hour drive to Wolfsburg. Members of the club spent the morning visiting the Autostadt – and now they are looking forward to visiting the main Volkswagen plant. “I have been here several times but I still haven’t seen everything. You could spend the entire week here,” says motorsport fan Uwe Bachmann.
That is certainly true, since just the factory’s hall space currently in use (1.6 square kilometers) is approximately as large as the Principality of Monaco. There is clearly always something new to discover here. In addition to four Volkswagen models, including the Golf, the Wolfsburg plant just recently started producing the SEAT Tarraco, which rounds out the SUV family for the Group's Spanish subsidiary. In Wolfsburg, the Tarraco is currently being produced together with the Volkswagen Tiguan and the Volkswagen Touran. It also shares the Modular Transverse Toolkit (MQB) with the two models as a joint production platform, thus allowing an increase in both efficiency and capacity utilization.
The tour with the e-Golf train begins in the press shop, where 2,600 tons of steel are processed every day. Rene Busch accelerates the electric car without making a sound, with the wind blowing in his face. The visitor’s train stops at a large oven. “Here is where the steel is gradually heated to 950 degrees and modeled while it’s still warm. This provides the vehicle body components with an extra high level of stability and offers excellent protection when accidents occur. Plus, they are very light weight,” explains Busch. But not every component receives this special heat treatment. That’s why the mighty presses are busy doing their job not far away, where they exert an impressive amount of pressure to shape the cold steel into the desired form. The entire press shop manufactures 420,000 vehicle body components every day by means of warm or cold shaping processes.
Fascinating insight into 40 locations
The Wolfsburg plant produced more than 800,000 cars in 2017 using these vehicle body components, thus enabling all the Volkswagen Group brands to deliver more than 10.7 million vehicles to their respective customers. Moreover, not only at the main plant do guests have the opportunity to see how these vehicles are manufactured. An upward of 1.3 million people per year visit Volkswagen Group factories – and that’s just in Germany. Guests have access to more than 450 sites throughout the world. Whether Lamborghini in Bologna, Škoda in Mladá Boleslav or Bentley in Crewe – all of them offer a look behind the scenes. In Södertälje near Stockholm, Scania not only showcases current trucks, but also the company’s vision of how goods can be transported in a sustainable manner. And in Olifantsfontein near Johannesburg, MAN provides insight into modern bus construction in South Africa.
The Volkswagen brand itself provides a glimpse behind the scenes at 18 sites – ranging from Pune, India, to Changchun, China. Visitors discover more about the mobility of today and of tomorrow. Therefore, guests visiting the Gläserne Manufaktur in Dresden as part of a guided tour through e-Golf production can experience firsthand how suitable electromobility is for daily use. In addition, they receive information about the electrically powered vehicles belonging to the ID. family, which will be launched on the market in 2020. What makes this so unique is that the informative and fascinating tour is offered in nine languages.
In Brussels, the spotlight is also on electromobility, where production of the Audi e-tron** recently commenced. Due to extensive renovations, the company temporarily had to stop offering factory tours, however, guests will be able to experience production of the electric car up close starting in the spring of 2019. At the same time, they will gain insight into the first climate-neutral, large-scale production in the premium segment. A visit to Audi in Mexico is also worthwhile: In San José Chiapa, factory visitors discover how the first wastewater-free automobile production of a premium manufacturer works.
Back to Wolfsburg, where tour guide Rene Busch is maneuvering the e-Golf train through the paint line and heading toward assembly. What will eventually become Tiguan and Touran vehicles are hovering above the visitors’ heads on massive rails. “To ensure optimal use of the production area, a large part of the logistics takes place under the roof,” explains Busch.
Then it’s off to the robots, where heavy components are lifted like feathers and brought into the appropriate position, which, in turn, facilitates the workers’ task. “Here you can see that the colleagues also ride alongside the vehicle body on a conveyor belt. This enables them to concentrate on each process step until the next colleague takes over,” says the tour guide.
The last station: Visitors look over a rail at a long row of new vehicles that are currently undergoing the final quality tests. “I’d be happy to take one home, if you have any extras,” jokes one of the visitors. Unfortunately, that’s not an option, because Busch naturally is not allowed to make an exception – even for thrilled motorsport enthusiasts. A final farewell photo and then it’s time for the group to head back home.
Special tour highlights digitalization and electromobility
Rene Busch and his colleagues accompany – or more precisely, drive – approximately 200,000 visitors a year through the plant in Wolfsburg. “A vast number of them are customers picking up their new cars. In addition, we are also regularly visited by representatives from business, society and politics as well as specialists from the field,” says Giuseppe Lazzara, head of Guest Relations. There is also a tour specifically for kindergartens and schools entitled “Children discover Volkswagen”. Another special tour focuses on digitalization and electromobility.
Most of the tours are conducted in German or English, but factory tours in Chinese are also not uncommon. “The international interest is growing,” says Lazzara. He also explains that this is the reason why the team of tour guides has also been construed in such a manner that it offers eight different languages, including Arabic and Swahili. We will continue to increase this repertoire in the future, notes Lazzara. “That is important for us: We speak the same language as our guests.”
* e-Golf – power consumption in kWh/100 km: 12.7 (combined), CO2 emissions in g/km: 0 (combined), efficiency class: A+
** e-tron – power consumption in kWh/100 km: 26,2 – 22,5 (WLTP), 24,6 – 23,7 (NEFZ), CO2 emissions in g/km: 0 (combined)