Volkswagen makes use of interactive television to train mechanics

Wolfsburg. The man in the short-sleeved shirt brushes his hand through the engine compartment, points his finger at the injection system and then at the turbocharger. The television camera follows his every move, zooming in on details. The VW trainer's explanation about the new Golf 2.0 TDI's diesel engine is captured on camera and broadcast live into VW's German workshops via "iTV".

Every Thursday at 11:30 and 13:00 the television channel in Wolfsburg transmits 30 minutes of information about VW models over the web. The channel for VW mechanics had its broadcasting premiere a year ago with programs about the Phaeton.

Since June the main star has been the new Golf. Audience participation has increased. At the beginning only 120 service partners switched on the live broadcasts. Now, practically every single German VW workshop watches the programs on a regular basis. Receiving iTV transmissions is obligatory for Volkswagen workshops as part of new service contracts.

"Since October all of our workshops are connected. We are now on air nationwide", said Peter Bobrowski, Volkswagen iTV's project manager.

The "i" stands for interactive. What is special about the information channel is that members of the audience in the workshops wear headphones and microphones so they can speak to the presenter or one of the Wolfsburg technicians at any time during the program.

They also can use a "telegram function," similar to the function used in online chat rooms to send comments or ask questions.

Hubert Weisser, from VW's service training department, said the audience's reaction is very positive. The cost of the workshops is very low -- only headphones and microphones are needed. The program is transmitted via the workshop-network onto the computer monitor. Long education trips are no longer necessary.

"iTV is practice orientated and helps us to save costs", said Markus Schmitt from VW's sales center in Germany's Southwest/Franken region. The amount of repeated repairs and time-consuming fault investigations has decreased substantially, due to the detailed information given during the programs.

VW plans to extend broadcasts outside Germany. For example, beginning Nov. 20 there will be regular online conferences with European importers. The automaker plans on training its sales staff via the internet.

The next step will be to integrate all remaining VW group brands. Seat, Skoda and even Audi have already shown interest, said VW.