Canadian Manufacturing

Volkswagen announces optimized global manufacturing strategy

"Bumper-to-bumper" plan will see VW produce conventional, alternative vehicles on same lines

LOS ANGELES—The Volkswagen Group unveiled a new global strategy at the Los Angeles Auto Show that will see the automaker optimize its global facilities to produce conventional and alternative powertrains on the same production line.

Aptly named the “bumper-to-bumper” strategy, the plan will see VW’s plants produce conventional, electrified and compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles on the same assembly line.

“In plants equipped with our standardized assembly kits and modules, we are able to produce cars on the same assembly line, bumper-to-bumper, with conventional, electrified, and CNG powertrains,” VW’s commissioner for electric drive systems, Dr. Rudolf Krebs, said at a sustainability workshop at the auto show.

“This flexible strategy enables us to react fast and cost-efficiently to actual demand and thus reduces risks.”

The blueprint for adaptive assembly lines is part of the German automaker’s plan to electrify vehicles across all segments in the coming years.

By 2014, a total of 14 models from the group’s brands—which sells passenger vehicles under the Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Porsche, SEAT, Škoda and VW nameplates—will be available in hybrid electric, battery electric or plug-in hybrid variations, according to Krebs.

A total of up to 40 models can be fitted with alternative drivetrains, including those running on CNG, as demand rises, he added.

“We start at exactly the right time,” Krebs said. “Volkswagen has placed e-mobility at the center of the group and has invested heavily to build up core competencies for e-drive and battery manufacturing in-house.”

The Group has hired 400 experts and trained 70,000 employees in e-mobility development, production and servicing.

The bumper-to-bumper program adds to other initiatives already underway as VW aims to become the world’s greenest carmaker by 2018.

That includes its “Think Blue. Factory” plan, aimed at sustainable vehicle production.

Launched in 2011, that program is focused on reducing waste and energy and water consumption and solvent and carbon dioxide emissions by 25 per cent each across its global production facilities.

“The objective of the program is to continuously improve the environmental compatibility of the production process,” the automaker’s head of strategy, processes and organizational structures, Peter Bosch, said.

A target launch date for the bumper-to-bumper program was not announced.

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