As at February 2005
From knitting machine factory to leading
car manufacturer – the Audi Neckarsulm plant
The history of the plant can be traced back to 1873, when the ingenious Swabians Christian Schmidt and Heinrich Stoll established a knitting machine factory in Riedlingen, on the Danube. Seven years later, Christian Schmidt relocated production to Neckarsulm and in 1886 manufactured the first penny-farthings under the “Germania” brand. The first low-level bicycles followed shortly afterwards. Around the turn of the century the company began to build motorcycles, and in 1906, production of the first NSU cars started – original Neckarsulm motor cars. By 1914 the “Neckarsulmer Fahrzeugwerke AG”, with some 1,200 employees, was producing 27,000 bicycles, 3,600 motorcycles and 900 cars. Car production, however, ground to a halt during the Great Depression. In 1945 the “NSU Werke AG” rebuilt the plant that had been destroyed during the war and began producing bicycles and motorcycles once again.
Thanks to the “two-wheeler boom” of the 1950s the company soon became the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world. Car production recommenced in 1958. The product range included such renowned models as the Prinz, NSU Spider and Ro 80. In 1969, AUTO UNION GmbH merged with the Neckarsulm-based NSU Motorenwerke AG to form AUDI NSU AUTO UNION AG. The Audi 100 was built at Neckarsulm. In the mid-1970s, the workers fought hard to save the plant. To make better use of the available production capacity, the Porsche 924 and 944 were assembled here. 1985 saw the company change its name to the present form of AUDI AG, with its head office in Ingolstadt.
Neckarsulm – an overview of the plant
The town of Neckarsulm has approximately 27,000 inhabitants and provides almost 30,000 jobs. With more than 13,700 employees, Audi is the largest employer in the Heilbronn-Franconia region. Some 10,500 of these are industrial workers and more than 2,400 office staff. In addition, over 750 apprentices are employed at Neckarsulm.
A total of 240,017 cars were manufactured at the Neckarsulm plant in 2004. Here 19,745 Audi A2 and 181,701 Audi A6 models came off the production line, as well as 14,796 of the allroad quattro, 1,233 of the RS 6 and 22,429 of the new Audi A8.
The site covers an area of 951,799 square metres, of which around 90 percent is developed.
The plant has attracted many suppliers to the area over recent years. The Bad Friedrichshall Commercial and Industrial Park was opened in 1996, and was extended for the fourth time in 2003. The Logistics Centre in Offenau was founded in 1999. Further suppliers are based in Heilbronn, at Rhenus Logistics and Fritz Logistik for example.
The production facilities at the Neckarsulm plant include the Press Shop, Steel and Aluminium Body Shops, Paint Shop and assembly lines. Other facilities include Quality Assurance, Technical Development, Toolmaking, Training, Dealer Training and the Customer Service Centre.
In 2004 the Audi A2, the Audi A6/A6 Avant, the allroad quattro, the RS 6 (quattro GmbH) and the Audi A8/A8L model series were built at Neckarsulm. In addition, the Lamborghini Gallardo was painted at the Neckarsulm paint shop.
In March 2004, AUDI AG presented the new Audi A6 to the public. The sixth generation of this very successful model series is produced in Neckarsulm. In all, AUDI AG invested around 530 million euros in the Neckarsulm plant in preparation for the new model. The Audi A6 redefines the benchmark with regard to production quality – with its highly automated and innovative body construction, for instance. Audi invested 80 million euros in a new building and 180 million euros in new body manufacturing facilities.
The use of even stronger steels, the composite design of steel and aluminium and the increased use of spot-weld bonding techniques placed higher demands on plant technology. The automation level at the new body shop has reached around 95 percent. Today, some 600 robots are in use, whereas the total for the previous model was still only 450. By combining various joining techniques (resistance spot-welding, punch-riveting, clinching, spot-weld bonding, laser welding, laser brazing and MIG brazing) a high degree of crash safety, optimum natural frequency behaviour and high body rigidity is achieved. For the first time on the A6, stainless steel was used in body construction.
Audi invested 140 million euros in tools alone to manufacture body components for the new A6. The Neckarsulm press shop produces primarily the large outer panel sections for the new A6. Nine million euros were spent on converting the painting facilities for the A6. There is now for instance a new pre-treatment line for composite aluminium and steel structures.
More than 40 million euros were invested in new plant technology for the A6 assembly line. Following innovations in the field of electrics/electronics, testing processes were restructured. The front-end module with the new singleframe radiator grille is installed with a pneumatically operated handling device. The driving area is installed semi-automatically and even the windows for the A6 are fitted by robot.
Audi Forum Neckarsulm
For 18 years now, customers have been able to collect their vehicle from the Customer Centre in Neckarsulm. In May 2005, the new “Audi Forum Neckarsulm” will open and commence operations. With this new building, Audi is adding a new dimension to the company image at Neckarsulm. It represents a new and appealing attraction for the Heilbronn-Franconia region. The architecturally attractive forum is the last of a total of three building stages and concludes the redesign of the southern section of the plant. Together with the Customer Service Centre and the six-storey car park (already completed), Audi has invested around 60 million euros in the redesign of the southern plant area.
Collecting a new car will become a special experience in this new setting. Current and latest models from the Audi range will be presented, as will the history of the brand. In the Audi exclusive studio, the quattro GmbH will offer customers and visitors personal advice on customisation options. In addition, customers and visitors can enjoy the culinary delights on offer or buy Lifestyle articles at the Audi Shop from the extensive range of Audi design accessories. Factory tours will be offered to those collecting new cars and for pre-booked groups of visitors. The Audi Forum will provide the appropriate venue and the right setting for conferences, events or festive occasions.
More than 70 staff at the Audi Forum will ensure that the stay of both customer and visitor is as pleasant as possible. The architecture of the building reflects the design orientation of the Audi brand: an aluminium sheet facade covering an area of 1,370 m² represents the leading role Audi plays in the field of lightweight design technology. The main focal point of the forum is the Ellipse, occupying a floor space of some 640 m². The Ellipse, 18 metres high and open towards the top, is crowned by a glass dome. It is both a magnet and the vibrant centre of the forum, a symbol of openness. The 3,325 m² steel and glass facade not only gives the building its mantle – it also ensures transparency.
Some 900 staff, a third of whom are engineers, are employed in Technical Development in Neckarsulm. In addition to the Aluminium and Lightweight Design Centre, focal points at the Neckarsulm plant include the development of petrol and diesel engines as well as sports engines for motor racing and the development of interior equipment.
Aluminium and Lightweight Design Centre
In 2004, Audi celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Neckarsulm Aluminium and Lightweight Design Centre. The production site for the luxury Audi A8 saloon, with its aluminium body, is also the centre of the company’s expertise in aluminium. Audi built the Aluminium Centre in Neckarsulm for around eight million euros in 1994. Ten years ago, Audi pooled its experience in lightweight design, bringing together the expertise of the Development, Production Planning and Quality Assurance departments.
Audi renamed the centre the “Aluminium and Lightweight Design Centre Neckarsulm” two years ago. This name reflects the fact that research and development activities now extend far beyond the use of aluminium alone. High-strength steels, tailored blanks, fibre-reinforced plastics or magnesium are playing a more significant role at Audi. Consistent use of lightweight materials for the vehicle body achieves a noticeable reduction in fuel consumption. Engineers conceived cars such as the A2 and A8 at the Aluminium and Lightweight Design Centre. The Lamborghini Gallardo has its roots here, too. Audi’s affirmation of the aluminium car body also had consequences for the steel industry: after the aluminium body had gone into volume production for the first time on the A8, steel manufacturers developed more high-strength and ultra-high-strength steels for vehicle construction.
In the same year in which the facility then called the Aluminium Centre was established, the first A8 came off the assembly line, the first vehicle with the Audi Space Frame (ASF). The Audi A2 followed in 1999, the first high-volume car with this technology. In 2002, the second generation of the Audi A8 was created at the Aluminium and Lightweight Design Centre, followed one year later by the Lamborghini super sports car Gallardo, whose body was developed in Neckarsulm.
Within this period Audi also devised new production techniques. The automation level in body manufacturing is now 80 percent. This figure is in line with the automation level of a conventional steel body. Standard production of the aluminium body at the Neckarsulm plant is gaining recognition throughout the industry: the Neckarsulm workforce has now produced some 320,000 vehicles with an aluminium body.
There are currently 110 employees at the Aluminium and Lightweight Design Centre, ensuring that Audi’s expertise in lightweight design continues to grow. They guarantee that the leading position in lightweight design is maintained, both in Development and Production.
quattro GmbH with headquarters in Neckarsulm helps to infuse the Audi brand with even more passion through its individuality, exclusivity and sports appeal. The company, a fully-owned subsidiary of AUDI AG, was founded back in October 1983. Initially it dealt solely with the sale of high-quality Lifestyle articles. Following its reorganisation in 1998, quattro GmbH today is made up of four business areas: RS models, S line models, Audi exclusive and Audi design lifestyle articles. It consequently has an extensive product range that is sold all over the world. Its administration, development and production activities are based in Neckarsulm, whereas sales and marketing operations are controlled from Ingolstadt.
Production of the RS 6, introduced in Germany in the summer of 2002, was discontinued in October 2004. International sales success and the positive response of the market to the RS models underline the positioning of Audi as a sporty brand. By the end of 2004 8,126 of the RS 6 had been produced and delivered worldwide.
Environmental protection at Neckarsulm
As a company with operations worldwide, it is the objective of AUDI AG to uphold individual mobility. The Group bears responsibility for the continuous improvement of the environmental compatibility of its products and production plants and for adopting an environmentally friendly approach towards natural resources; consequently, ecological and economic aspects must be taken into consideration when developing advanced technologies.
AUDI AG makes these technologies available worldwide and enables their implementation along the entire process chain.
The direct outcome for the Neckarsulm site: in September 2004, the Audi Neckarsulm plant received voluntary environmental certification according to the Eco Audit Directive of the European Union for the fourth time in succession. This entailed having production procedures and supplementary processes such as the heating plant, waste water treatment facilities and recycling centre checked on site by an independent environmental expert.
The Audi Neckarsulm plant exceeds set environmental targets. Principal activities include improving soil and water conservation, ongoing measures to reduce and limit noise emissions and optimising water treatment systems. For nine years now, the site has achieved a continuous improvement in environmental protection. Audi Neckarsulm was the first premium-segment German plant to obtain environmental certification in October 1995.
Water-soluble fillers and base coats have been used in the Paint Shop since 1995, as well as low-solvent two-part clear coats, cutting solvent emissions by around half. The Paint Shop moreover no longer discharges any waste water from the production process into the sewerage system.
In the Press Shop, too, all metal trimmings which occur when steel panels are being cut are reprocessed. The metal trimmings are compressed using packing presses and returned to the steel works for reprocessing.
To optimise a car's operating phase from an ecological viewpoint after it has left the plant, Audi treats innovative materials and technologies as a priority. Lightweight design methods using materials such as aluminium, magnesium and plastic significantly reduce vehicle weight, – achieving a reduction in fuel consumption and emissions. This applies in particular to the “lightweights” based on the ASF principle, but also to Audi models with a composite design.
Key Figures for the Audi Neckarsulm Plant:
Audi Neckarsulm site first established: 1880
Plant Manager: Jürgen Lunemann
Area: 951,799 square metres
Employees: 13,624 (2004 annual average)
Models built at Neckarsulm in 2004: A2, A6, A6 Avant, S6, allroad quattro, A8, long-wheelbase A8, RS 6 (quattro GmbH, up to October 2004); plus models painted at the Neckarsulm Paint Shop: Lamborghini Gallardo
Production at Neckarsulm 2004: 240,017 cars
Audi Group as a whole:
Chairman of the Board of Management: Dr. Martin Winterkorn
Chairman of the Supervisory Board: Dr. Bernd Pischetsrieder
Employees: 53,182 (2004 annual average)
Vehicle sales in 2004: 779,441
Sales revenue for 2004: 24,5 billion Euro
Result after taxes for 2004: 871 million Euro
Communication Audi Sites
Joachim Cordshagen Tel: +49 (0)8 41 / 89 363 40
Fax: +49 (0)8 41 / 89 440 40
Communication Neckarsulm Plant
Susanne Jauch Tel.: +49 (0)7132 / 31 1310
Fax: +49 (0)7132 / 31 1965