Monday, November 2, 2009

Deutschland, Part 3

On my way to Stuttgart, I passed through Neckarsulm, home to Audi's higher-end production, including its "center of aluminium competence". Here, the put together the A6, A8, and even the R8 supercar. To be perfectly honest, the latter was my only reason for coming to this small town just north of Stuttgart.

And of course the R8 production was not part of the tour.

I did get a minor thrill at seeing an R8 body-in-white. We also supposedly got to stand closer to a stamping press than any other place in the world, with the glass being only about 6 feet from the press.

Because they work with aluminum to create lighter vehicles that are just as strong, manufacturing can be a bit more complicated. Along with the three joining processes of gluing, bolting and welding, Audi adds riveting for the aluminum components because of the unique challenges associated with that metal. Still, the tour guide insisted that after many years of fine tuning, Audi has gotten it so that its aluminum-intensive vehicles—like the A8 and R8—are no more expensive or time-consuming to repair than the competition.

One fact that surprised me was that the plant was not air conditioned. It was a perfectly sunny day, but the plant didn’t feel uncomfortable, so it must take an impressive feat of architecture to achieve this.

These are some photos of the Audi Forum, the building dedicated to the customer experience of picking up the car. While smaller than the complex in Ingolstadt, it's just as gorgeous.

On the same day I arrived in Neckarsulm, I jumped on the train to Stuttgart. But I've run out of time, so that's for the next post.

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