September 2002

AUDI AG 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 machinery factory in Riedlingen, on the Danube. Seven years later they relocated the factory to Neckarsulm, and commenced production of penny-farthings under the "Germania" brand two years after. Their first low-level bicycles followed shortly afterwards. The company started to build motorcycles at around the turn of the century, and manufactured its first cars from 1905, under the name of the "Original Neckarsulm Motor Car". By 1914, now operating under the name of Neckarsulmer Fahrzeugwerke AG, its 1,200 workers turned out 27,000 bicycles, 3,600 motorcycles and 900 cars. Car production, however, ground to a halt during the Great Depression.

In 1946, "NSU Werke AG" rebuilt the factory that had been destroyed during the war and started to build cycles and motorcycles again. Thanks to the boom in motorised two-wheeled transport in the 1950s, the company soon grew to become the world's largest motorcycle manufacturer. 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 offices in Ingolstadt.

Neckarsulm - an overview of the plant

The town of Neckarsulm has 26,745 inhabitants. With 13,697 employees (figure correct as at December 31, 2001), Audi is the largest employer in the Heilbronn-Franconia region. Of this total, 10,774 are industrial workers and 2,242 office staff. There are in addition 681 apprentices employed at Neckarsulm.

251,057 cars in total were built at Neckarsulm in 2001, an increase of 10 percent on the previous year. 49,369 of the Audi A2 and 166,472 of the Audi A6 (including 55,915 A6 Avant models) were built, as well as 19,995 of the allroad quattro and 11,708 A8 models.

The site covers an area of 951,799 square metres, of which around 90 percent is developed.

The Neckarsulm plant has in addition prompted numerous suppliers to set up operations in its vicinity: the Bad Friedrichshall Commercial and Industry Park (GIF) was opened in 1996. It was followed by the Offenau Logistics Centre in 1999. Further suppliers are based in Heilbronn. Over 1,000 new jobs have thus been created in the region since 1995,


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, tooling, training, dealer training and the service workshop. The arrangement whereby customers have been able to collect their own vehicle from the Neckarsulm Customer Centre goes back 15 years. The Audi A2, including a version which does 100 km on only three litres of fuel, as well as the A6, A6 Avant, allroad quattro, A8 and long-wheelbase A8 and the sports models Audi S6, S6 Avant, Audi S8 and RS 6 (the latter being manufactured by quattro GmbH) are built here.

The Aluminium Centre is a special Technical Development facility at Neckarsulm. As far back as 1994, the Audi Group decided to concentrate its expertise in lightweight design at the Aluminium Centre. Around 100 employees work on a cross-disciplinary, simultaneous engineering basis on new production techniques and methods as well as aluminium bodies, and optimise products that are already in series production. It strives in particular to optimise material properties, components and processes for the large-scale use of Audi Space Frame technology. Suppliers, universities and institutes are also involved in the development process.

The first volume-production model with an all-aluminium body, the Audi A2, was created at the Aluminium Centre. This already represents the second generation of Audi Space Frame (ASF) technology. The ASF is a high-strength aluminium frame structure into which the large aluminium panels are integrated, thus assuming a supporting function. The body is around 40 percent lighter than an equivalent one made from steel, and the car's fuel consumption is thus lower. Audi created the first four-door, three-litre car in the guise of the Audi A2 1.2 TDI. ASF technology has been further refined and optimised for the new Audi A8.

Audi has already built over 200,000 cars with an all-aluminium body, including more than 100,000 of the Audi A8. Lightweight design is moreover finding increasing use in other Audi models, with aluminium components becoming ever more prevalent as an aspect of composite construction, for instance in the front lid of the A6.

There are 878 employees in Technical Development at Neckarsulm: 420 industrial workers and 458 employees on a collective pay scale. 278 of them are engineers. As well as the Aluminium Centre, the principal activities of the Neckarsulm plant include development work on petrol and diesel engines, sports engines for motor racing and the development of interior equipment.

An entirely new paint shop was opened at Neckarsulm in October 2000 following the completion of its third phase. The paint shop represents the largest capital investment in the plant's history, at around EUR 300 million.

Along with the growing product range and the increasing proportion of aluminium-bodied vehicles, the demands on the paint shop had continued to rise. The third phase of the new paint shop permitted the introduction of segmentation: there are separate operations for each model line. The result was greater flexibility in the filler, top coat and patterns line. The 7,000 square metre paint shop is likewise ideally equipped to adapt to future technologies, including for the protection of the environment.

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