Highlight of the Neckarsulm Centenary Celebrations: German Premiere of the Audi R8
Audi is marking “100 Years of Automotive Engineering in Neckarsulm” by officially putting its new R8 sports car into production. At a ceremony held at the Neckarsulm plant in the state of Baden-Württemberg, Chairman of the Board of AUDI AG, Prof. Martin Winterkorn, was joined by state premier Günther Oettinger to launch production of this new range-topping model, which is to be built in Neckarsulm under the supervision of quattro GmbH.
“During its 100 years of existence, the Audi site in Neckarsulm has evolved into a mainstay of innovation, economic dynamism, prosperity and employment in Baden-Württemberg,” remarked state premier Günther Oettinger during the ceremony, adding, “I would like to thank Audi for the major presence it maintains in Baden-Württemberg and especially for the exemplary approach it takes to training young people and the vital contribution it makes as a result to safeguarding the future of our youngsters.”
A century after the first “original Neckarsulm motor car” left the production halls there, Audi is in Neckarsulm to celebrate the German premiere of its new sports car and extend the long series of top-class automotive products that have originated in Baden-Württemberg. “We are giving the go-ahead for the production of a sensational car that opens a new chapter in our company’s history,” emphasised Audi Board Chairman Prof. Martin Winterkorn in Neckarsulm.
The R8 is a thoroughbred mid-engined sports car with an aluminium body, which is due to arrive on the market in mid-2007. “This vehicle adds a new flagship model at the top our range and further advances the position of our brand,” commented Prof. Winterkorn. The R8 had received its world premiere just three days previously at the Paris Motor Show.
“The production of the Audi R8 here at the Neckarsulm plant is, in my view, testimony to the fact that skill and dedication reap their own rewards, as these very qualities are evident in abundance amongst our workforce,” said the chairman of the Neckarsulm works council, Norbert Rank, at the centenary event.
Over 1,000 guests, including many VIPs from the worlds of politics, business and high society, media representatives, members of the Audi Board of Management and Supervisory Board as well as executives past and present, gathered in a logistics hall that had been converted into an event arena, where they were taken on a dramatic journey through time from the beginnings of mobility through to today’s high-tech manufacture. The plant staged an open day to mark the centenary anniversary and visitors were able to follow proceedings on a number of giant outdoor screens.
The journey through the plant’s past opened with an NSU 6/30 PS Saloon from 1928. On the race track, the Neckarsulm engineers emulated their motorcycle racing successes. The 1925 German Grand Prix, for instance, was won by the NSU 6/60 PS supercharged racing car. An NSU 1300 TT built in 1970 and an NSU Racing Spider from 1967 represented many more racing triumphs. The NSU Wankel-engined Spider (1964) that was exhibited on the stage epitomised the courage and pioneering spirit of Neckarsulm’s automotive experts. It was the first vehicle in the world to be fitted with a series-manufactured engine of this type whose pistons moved in a rotary instead of a lifting motion. This innovation placed the Neckarsulm design engineers at the very forefront of engine development.
An NSU Ro 80 from 1976 illustrated how vehicles from this era also distinguished themselves with a sophisticated and timeless design. It was also at this time that the precept “Vorsprung durch Technik”, which continues to guide the company today, was devised. In 1977, production of the NSU models had to be halted due to economic constraints. But prospects brightened again as soon as 1980, after the “quattro” permanent four-wheel drive developed by Audi NSU in Ingolstadt – showcased at the ceremony by an Audi 100 Coupé – caused such a sensation.
The Audi 100, which later evolved into the Audi A6, became the bread-and-butter car for the plant. Some 60 percent of the workforce are involved in the production of this model and its derivatives (A6 Avant, S6 Saloon and Avant and the allroad quattro). Today, Audi is the global market leader in the premium C-segment, as it is known.
Audi finally completed its ascension to the premium segment with the Audi 200 (C2, built in 1982). The real quantum leap came in 1994 however, when the company brought out the Audi A8, the first luxury car to feature a full-aluminium body and “quattro” four-wheel drive which was represented at the anniversary show by an A8 L 6.0 from 2002. The company continues to centre its vast expertise in the field of lightweight manufacture and aluminium technology at its Neckarsulm site today.
An Audi A6 2.5 TDI demonstrated how Audi changed the face of motoring in 1989 with a revolutionary engine that gave diesel cars a new sporty, dynamic and economical image. Today, 54 percent of all Audi cars have a “TDI” engine under the bonnet.
Neckarsulm is synonymous with automotive performance of the very highest calibre and is often dubbed Audi’s ‘racing centre’ with very good reason. In 2006, AUDI AG expanded its already attractive portfolio with the addition of three new models built in Neckarsulm: the A6 allroad quattro and two high-performance saloons powered by ten-cylinder engines the S6/S6 Avant as well as the leading sports star of the luxury class, the S8. The stage show culminated with the appearance of two Audi R8 cars with 420-bhp 4.2-litre eight-cylinder FSI engines which together signalled the dawn of a new era: the official start of sports car production at the Audi plant in Neckarsulm. The R8 is a thoroughbred sports car boasting the Audi Space Frame (ASF), a mid-engine concept and quattro permanent four-wheel drive.
The Audi subsidiary quattro GmbH has invested around €28 million in manufacturing plant and structural measures in Neckarsulm to prepare for series production of the sports car that was unveiled at the 2003 Frankfurt Motor Show as the “Le Mans quattro” study. 250 people will work in the final assembly section for the R8, where trademark Audi standards of precision and craftsmanship are the order of the day.
Since 1906, over six million cars have been built in all at the Neckarsulm site. In 2005, a total of 241,070 A6, A8, RS 4 and allroad quattro models were built. The Audi Neckarsulm plant has a workforce of 13,260 employees, including nearly 800 apprentices, making it the largest employer in the Heilbronn-Franconia region.