Audi claims its new A2 is the world's first volume production vehicle with a lightweight and environmentally friendly all-aluminum body. Audi plans to build 60,000 A2s a year.
The supermini slots below the A3 as Audi's entry-level vehicle. The A2 uses the same innovative aluminum space frame technology as the luxury A8. Both the A2 and the A8 are built at Audi's plant in Neckarsulm, Germany.
Audi has been operating a cross-functional team at its aluminum center at Neckarsulm since 1994, when production of the A8 started.
The development time for the A2 was similar to that of a car with a conventional steel body, Audi said.
The A2 is made mostly of multifunctional castings that are more complex than those used on the A8. The A2's aluminum roof frame, for example, has a cross section that varies several times along its length to reflect the different requirements along each zone of the component.
The A2 also uses a single extruded aluminum section side frame from the front roof post to the luggage compartment edge.
The aluminum space frame used for the A2 is fully recyclable and 43 percent lighter than a similar structure made of steel.
The A2 weighs 2,112 pounds, although the supereconomical 1.2-liter, three-cylinder TDI model has additional aluminum components and is 297 pounds lighter. It has aluminum engine blocks and is the first direct-injection diesel to use aluminum cylinder heads.
The calipers on the front disc brakes and the rear brake drums are made of aluminum. The car also has lightweight forged aluminum wheels.
Aluminum axle-mounting frames, control arms and spring struts contribute to a 176-pound reduction in suspension weight and help achieve the 'three-liters-per-100 km,' or 70.6 mpg, fuel consumption target that automakers have been fighting to reach.
The A2 TDI will become the third car from the Volkswagen group to achieve the three-liter target, after the VW Lupo 3L and the Seat Arosa 3L.
Audi invested more than DM300 million ($154 million) in production facilities for the A2. Body production is 80 percent automated and uses new technologies for volume production such as laser welding.
The A2 is highly modular. Outsourced doors and front end are delivered directly to the assembly line ready for installation. A2 production started Nov. 15 at Neckarsulm.