Volkswagen Group's 10 brands produced more than 8 million light vehicles last year, and VW aims to surpass 10 million by 2018 or sooner to become the world's largest automaker.
To reach that goal, VW is demanding more from its 62 assembly plants around the world. VW Group production boss Michael Macht talked about how VW is overcoming these challenges in an interview with Automotive News Europe Editor-in-Chief Harald Hamprecht.
Q: How many vehicles will the Volkswagen Group launch in 2012, and how do you manage the complexity of having more than 200 models worldwide?
A: We undertook 42 new launches in 2011. It will be 49 new launches in 2012, not counting [truckmakers] MAN and Scania. We have a globally networked, highly professional team. We will shoulder this Herculean task with our drive toward standardization, our group production strategy and absolute discipline in our modular strategy.
The group is growing fast. What changes are being made in the production network to cope with this?
We formulated our Production Strategy 2018 to deal with the challenges on our path to global growth. The goal of this cross-group program is to organize the highest performance and most advanced automobile production in the world by systematically developing synergies among the 10 group brands and as many standards as possible.
What are the key points?
We're harmonizing our production programs groupwide, and we are relying on a clear, process-oriented organization.
At the same time, we are stabilizing the quality of our global vehicle launches and optimizing our production system. But one of our most important tasks is to systematically translate our modular platform strategy into production.
What does that mean?
That means that we will build up to 40 models across the group globally based on the standard principles for the modular transverse platform, or MQB. Standard structures for capital equipment, facilities and assembly areas are carried over to our factories worldwide. This makes it possible to assemble various models efficiently on one line. That means we achieve highly flexible, multiple-brand plants in the process.
Will it be possible to assemble any model from any VW Group brand at any plant in the future?
We always prefer being able to assign our factories to one brand. If it makes sense economically, we want to produce other brands in a factory. This is now successfully taking place in Bratislava and at Seat's factory in Martorell, Spain, for example.
What is being done to prevent problems like those that caused the recent recalls at Toyota?
Errors can happen, but we have built up our expertise for recognizing, analyzing and solving them. We define our quality claim precisely, and we're bringing our global partners along with us. This is especially important for our projects abroad. We cannot expect our suppliers to meet our expectations from a standing start.
How many VW Group employees work in production?
Out of our roughly 500,000 employees, about two-thirds work in production. Not including truckmaker MAN, VW Group has 62 factories for production of passenger cars and components worldwide. The number is expected to be about 70 by 2018.
What comes after that?
The VW Group is growing globally. In the coming years, we will go online with a number of additional facilities.
In China alone, we are working on projects involving new facilities in Foshan, Yizheng and Ningbo. We need component plants in this region. We are also looking more closely at the ASEAN [Southeast Asia] region, especially to Malaysia. And as everyone knows we're looking at North America.
We are already building a component factory in Mexico and are investigating another vehicle factory under Audi's leadership. And if the global market develops as expected, we won't stop there. We'll accelerate. We sold nearly 8.2 million vehicles last year -- and want to be at more than 10 million in 2018 at the latest. If you include the 31 MAN locations, we do not talk about 70 factory locations anymore, but about more than 100 significantly earlier than 2018.
When will you begin using China as a base for exports?
At the moment, the Chinese market soaks up every car that we build there. Our production almost cannot keep up. The capacity of our two planned factories in Foshan und Yizheng, which will start up in 2013, is already completely targeted for the Chinese market. From this standpoint, I see no possibility of exporting from China to Europe in the foreseeable future.
Since VW Group's cooperation with Suzuki has flopped, how do you plan to produce low-cost-models for markets such as India?
We know how to do low-cost vehicles, too. We're demonstrating that with the Volkswagen Up family. The Up comes in under the 10,000-euro threshold.
Will there be Up variants produced in India or China?
There hasn't been a decision on that yet. The Up is primarily a car for Europe right now.