Wolfsburg Factory Visit
June 1997

Bernd Felsche reports on his visit to the home of Volkswagen

VW logo

The visitors reception hall includes a reception counter surrounded by racks of information leaflets in several languages. After being issued with your badge, and getting your parking ticket validated, you are free to browse through the displays, which at the time included a Passat sedan. A souvenir shop stacked with a range of Volkswagen goodies, is at one end of the hall. The shop is also open after the guided tour, so it's less of a hassle to delay your purchases until that time. Coin-operated lockers are provided for the stuff you don't wish to take through the factory, requiring a (refundable) 1 DM coin to operate. A cold drinks vending machine provides refreshment.

Guided tours start at 13:15 (1:15 p.m.) with registration opening half an hour earlier. At the predetermined time, you are guided across the road to the visitors' centre. This hall is dominated by a scale model of the Wolfsburg factory and a map of the world showing VAG points of presence.

Power Station
VW Power station is a prominent landmark
In an afternoon, more than a hundred visitors go through the factory, but before this happens, they are divided into groups according to language and manageable size.

The tour commences with an introductory film in an adjacent cinema. The film is in German, with English sub-titles. Following the film, a briefing takes place around the model of the factory, covering aspects of safety, etc..

On this occasion, the tour would cover about 4km on foot through the press shop, vehicle assembly and final testing areas. Previous visits covered a wider area, thanks to mini-road trains in which visitors would ride in comfort for the most part. Use of the trains was no doubt curtailed due re-tooling for the yet-to-be-seen, 4th generation Golf.

Starting from the oldest section of the factory, following the conveyor chains along the visitors' gallery, brings you to the press shop, where large parts and small are progressively stamped and formed to the final shape from coil steel. 2850 (Golf, Polo and Arosa) vehicles are currently produced daily at Wolfsburg, and most body parts are made on-site, engines being sourced from the Salzgitter and gearboxes from the Kassel factories. Presses are synchronised out of phase to that the combined load on the factory structure does not cause its collapse.

Most of the welding is done by robots with great precision and reliability. Some sections, such as the wheel arch areas are welded partly by hand, before being integrated back to the fully-automatic process. The guided tour includes both types of welding areas, as well as the very noisy stamp and press areas.

Body assembly continues elsewhere where movable body panels such as bonnet and doors are aligned and attached before being painted and corrosion protected. Doors are then removed from the body shell and transferred to other areas for fitment of glass, trim and accessories. Meanwhile; and this is where the tour continues, the body shell receives drive-train, exhaust, suspension and electrical components, as well as fixed glass, before being mated back to the correct doors.

Every car in production was being made to order, with a huge variety of body styles, engines, colours, trim options, wheels, left- and right-hand drive on the same production lines. Only the models (Golf, Polo and Arosa) are segregated, Golf assembly taking place alongside the Polo's, and the Arosa's in a far-flung (unseen) corner of the factory.

The factory covers an area larger than the Principality of Monaco, all under one roof, so it would take months to explore every nook and cranny.

After final assembly, every car is run through a simulated downpour to identify any leaks, as well as being subjected to rolling-road tests of brakes and drive-train. Other quality checks take place elsewhere along the production line. Rework areas along the line allow necessary rectification work to take place without moving the vehicle in question too far away from the flow of production.

Map of works and surrounds
Factory location map and surrounds.
Groups of workers can take a break in areas set aside for that purpose, and are well catered for in other respects by nearby restaurants, etc. Still other areas are adorned with static displays incorporating current production models' components and assemblies to keep the work force informed of running changes and requirements.

The two hours of guided tour are over all too soon, concluding with a recap around the model of the factory. But one shouldn't forget a visit to the souvenir shop on the way out to stock up on goodies at reasonable prices.

See the Volkswagen Visitors' Service web site for current details of opening times and days when the factory is closed to visitors. That site was also liberated of the images on this page

Email: bernie@innovative.iinet.net.au
Copyright © 1997,1999 Bernd Felsche.