Smart factory: Audi shows intelligent production

Humans and robots working hand in hand, car-body parts emerging from a 3D printer and cars driving in piloted mode from the assembly line: Audi is pursuing this vision of the factory of the future: the smart factory. In the Encounter magazine under that heading, the automobile manufacturer is now providing a wide-ranging insight on how intelligent Audi’s production processes already are and which leaps of innovation will occur in the coming years. Audi presented the publication on Friday at the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting.

Audi offers its customers products that are increasingly diverse and individual. This results in enormous increases in the complexity of the production processes. “Automobile production as we know it today will no longer exist in the future. It will become more connected, more intelligent and more efficient. At the same time, our employees will continue to be the drivers of successful production,” stated Audi’s Board of Management Member for Production Prof. Dr. Hubert Waltl. “New specialists such as network architects will increasingly move into our industry. With their IT expertise, they will configure machinery so that all processes will be extremely well coordinated and the factory equipment will optimally support the employees.”

In many areas of production at Audi, the smart factory is already a reality today, as this Encounter magazine shows: With the augmented‑reality tool “Window to the World” for example, employees in the pre‑series center combine the virtual and the physical worlds of automobile development extremely precisely. The system allows the projection of virtual 3D components onto the car. In Audi’s tooling division, a 3D printer produces complex metal parts, and intelligent tools are able to exactly distribute the high pressure forces to stamp sheet‑metal parts that are accurate to one hundredth of a millimeter. And in the assembly process at the Ingolstadt plant, a robot works with the employees on the production line without a protective fence, passing them components at exactly the right speed and in an ergonomically pleasant position.

In the Encounter magazine under the heading of “Smart Factory,” Audi also provides a glimpse of how automobile production could look in the distant future: manufacturing with competence islands instead of assembly lines, with drones to transport materials quickly and with cars that drive out of the assembly halls in piloted mode.

Audi travels to the Lausitzring with tailwind

As the leader of all three classifications (drivers’, manufacturers’ and teams’), Audi heads to the second DTM weekend of the year – with a premiere: On Saturday, May 30, at the Lausitzring, a DTM race will be held on Saturday night for the first time – aired on prime time immediately before the DFB Cup final in Berlin, which is only about 130 kilometers away.

With two victories and two pole positions, Audi managed a near-perfect start to the new DTM season. The squad headed by Dieter Gass would like to pick up where it left off in the opener, although the Head of DTM at Audi Sport cautions against excessive expectations. “We had a very good opening DTM weekend and we want to again fight for top places at the Lausitzring. However, the field is incredibly close and we do not underestimate our competitors. Mercedes have traditionally been strong at the Lausitzring. BMW will try to come back. And we have to add between five and ten kilograms of performance weights to our cars following the two victories at Hockenheim.”

Additionally, the 3.478-kilometer Lausitzring with its mix of fast, semi-fast and slow turns, plus a long start-finish straight with top speeds of about 240 km/h, is a race track that Audi was frequently struggling with in the past. An Audi driver crossed the finish line as the winner there only twice (in 2005 and 2011) – in one event with an extremely small advantage. In 2005, Mattias Ekström prevailed in a gripping duel against Gary Paffett in the Mercedes-Benz. “Gary was on my heels during the whole race,” the Audi driver recalls. “I couldn’t afford to make any mistakes.” Ten years later, there might well be a repeat of the duel between the two most successful active DTM drivers.

The current leader of the standings, Edoardo Mortara, is expecting a special race in Brandenburg. “For the first time in my career, I’m at the very top, that does make me feel proud,” says the Italian who, due to an unsuccessful tire strategy, experienced one of the most difficult DTM races in his career at the Lausitzring last year. “This shows how close success and failure are in the DTM,” says Dieter Gass. “With the new format of two races per weekend and an extremely tight schedule for everyone, this is the case even more than in the past. You could see that at Hockenheim with Jamie Green: On Saturday, he won and on Sunday he finished without points. With Mattias Ekström, it was exactly the other way around.”

Nico Müller travels to the Lausitzring with a tailwind. The youngster won the 24-hour race at the Nürburgring in the all-new Audi R8 LMS. As a result, his fans will have to get used to a new ‘hairstyle’ – at least temporarily. Following their victory in the 24-hour race at the Nürburgring, Nico Müller and his team-mates had their heads shaved bald.

Following the successful opener at Hockenheim, the fans can look forward to another entertaining DTM weekend, which includes the IDM Superbike Championship as well. Practice in the DTM is on Friday, while a qualifying session and a race are on the agenda on both Saturday and Sunday. ARD will broadcast the first race on Saturday (May 30) at 18.00 CEST and the second one on Sunday (May 31) at 14.00 CEST. Live streaming will be provided at

On Saturday evening, motorsport and soccer fans will have the opportunity to experience two top sporting events in succession on TV: the DTM race and then thereafter the DFB Cup final between Borussia Dortmund and VfL Wolfsburg. “Two TV treats,” promises Timo Scheider, who, in third place, was the best Audi driver in the DTM race at the Lausitzring last year and is a great BVB fan himself. “Naturally, I’m going to watch the Cup final and keep my fingers crossed for Dortmund,” says Scheider. “But first of all, I’ve got to convert the good performance of the Audi RS 5 DTM into points in the DTM.”

AUDI AG concluding extensive cooperation agreements with Baidu and Huawei

Audi is intensifying the expansion of connectivity of its cars in China, according to an announcement by the premium carmaker in advance of the first CES Asia taking place in Shanghai. With Baidu CarLife, Audi will also be offering uncompromising integration of smartphones in its cars in China. A China-specific LTE module, which Audi is developing in a joint venture with Huawei, will deliver fast data transmission.

“The aim of our partnership with Baidu – a company that is number one on the Chinese search engine market – is to drive advances in the online networking of our cars in China,” says Ricky Hudi, Head of Development Electrics/Electronics at AUDI AG. Baidu CarLife is a smartphone integration for use in the automobile, similar to Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

As soon as customers connect their smartphone to the car, the Audi smartphone interface starts up. On the MMI display, an environment opens with customized Baidu apps that are very popular in China, especially among young people. CarLife will operate with both iOS and Android, which will allow Audi reach the vast majority of customers.

Audi and Baidu already agreed to form a partnership at the end of January. Along with integration of Baidu CarLife, other components of the partnership include joint development of map data, positioning algorithms and point-of-interest functions. For example, they enable the transfer of destination data into the car from a Baidu Map on a computer or smartphone. In addition to Baidu CarLife, another cooperative effort being shown by Audi at CES Asia is the Audi tablet, which already includes the integrated Baidu web browser and Baidu app store.

To assure its Chinese customers of unlimited use of their online services in the automobile, quick and seamless data transmission must be guaranteed. Audi is adapting to market-specific requirements in Asia. Audi has signed an agreement with Huawei Technologies Co., one of the world’s largest network providers, for the development and utilization of an Asia-specific LTE module. Audi will use the module in China, Japan and Korea. It supports the TDD-LTE (Time Division Duplexing) wireless standard by China Mobile, which was redefined in 2013, and the FDD-LTE (Frequency Division Duplexing) standard. This makes Audi the first premium automaker to offer a fully integrated LTE solution in China.

Audi CEO Stadler at Annual General Meeting: “Our brand aims to set new records”

The Audi Group plans to set new records in 2015. With more than 591,000 cars delivered in the first four months of this year, the premium brand with the Four Rings is well on the way to surpassing its record unit sales of 1.74 million automobiles in 2014. This progress will be assisted by many new and advanced Audi models. In addition to the new Audi Q7, for example, the new Audi A4 will be launched in the second half of 2015. In order to attract new customers to the Audi brand, the company plans to systematically expand its model range in the coming years. By 2020, 60 different models are to be offered, including three additional members of the Q family. The Audi Q1, the Audi Q8 and a sporty SUV with electric drive in the upper mid segment are intended to provide a solid foundation for the Audi Group’s growth path. With a record investment program of €24 billion until 2019, the company is creating the basis to develop further models and innovative technologies and to expand its international production network. At the same time, the premium manufacturer is creating jobs. Worldwide, approximately 6,000 new employees are to be taken on board in 2015, 4,000 of them in Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm.

At the 126th Annual General Meeting of AUDI AG in Neckarsulm on Friday, the Board of Management explained the results of the 2014 financial year and informed the shareholders about the company’s current development. Audi CEO Rupert Stadler stated his goal for 2015: “We intend to continue growing this year – faster than the world market and in all regions. Our brand aims to set new records.”

After the best first quarter in the company’s history, Audi increased its unit sales also in April. Demand increased compared with the prior‑year month in all regions of the world. Business developed positively for the Audi brand above all on the American continent. Worldwide unit sales from January through April rose by 5.2 percent to more than 591,000 automobiles (Jan.-Apr. 2014: 561,000).

Audi’s key financial metrics remained at a high level in the first quarter of 2015: For the period of January through March, the Ingolstadt‑based premium manufacturer posted revenue of €14,651 million (Q1 2014: €12,951 million) and operating profit of €1,422 million (Q1 2014: €1,314 million). The operating return on sales amounted to 9.7 percent (Q1 2014: 10.1 percent).

Demand for Audi‑brand models is expected to remain high worldwide. Since late March, the Ingolstadt‑based premium manufacturer has been delivering the new Audi TT Roadster* to customers. The new RS 3 Sportback* and the new Audi R8* are now also being shipped to dealerships and will give Audi further impetus in the next stage of its model initiative. In the second half of this year, the company will present the new Audi A4 – the next generation of its best‑selling model.

Audi is attractive not only with its new models. Customers’ response to innovative technologies from Ingolstadt is also very positive. For example, the company has successfully demonstrated that it fully masters the complex technology of piloted driving. In October 2014, an Audi RS 7 piloted driving concept drove laps of the Grand Prix racetrack in Hockenheim – without a driver and at speeds up to 240 km/h. And in early January, the brand with the Four Rings set a world record. Journalists traveled approximately 900 kilometers in regular traffic in an Audi driving in piloted mode. Rupert Stadler, Chairman of the Board of Management of AUDI AG, stated to approximately 600 shareholders and guests: “We have clearly underscored our technological leadership in the premium segment. Piloted driving by Audi will ensure more safety, more comfort and more efficiency.”

In the new premium SUV Audi Q7*, which is to be launched in Europe in the second half of the year, customers can experience a preliminary stage of piloted driving with adaptive cruise control and the traffic‑jam assistant. Adaptive cruise control maintains the desired distance between the Q7 and the vehicle in front by accelerating and braking automatically. In the top stage of development, the system also takes over the steering in situations of heavy traffic and at speeds up to 65 km/h. Orders received for the new Audi Q7 already exceed the company’s expectations, even before the new model is in the dealerships.

In addition to the Audi Q7, the SUV models Audi Q3* and Audi Q5* are also very well received by customers. In the coming years, the brand with the Four Rings intends to expand its range of SUVs. The new Audi Q1 is to be produced in Ingolstadt as of 2016 and the Audi Q8 is to be added at the top end of the SUV family in 2019. The company is also developing a sporty SUV with electric drive, which is to be launched in 2018. Overall, Audi plans to expand its model range from today’s 52 to 60 automobiles in 2020.

For that purpose, Audi has approved the biggest investment program in its history: €24 billion is to be invested between 2015 and 2019 – €2 billion more than in the previous planning period. 70 percent of that capital expenditure will flow into the development of new models and technologies. The German sites in Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm will account for more than half of the planned investment. Axel Strotbek, Member of the Board of Management of AUDI AG for Finance and Organization, stated: “Despite a record level of investment, we are maintaining our ambitious financial targets and plan to achieve an operating return on sales within the strategic target corridor of 8 to 10 percent also this year.”

Audi delivered a convincing performance in 2014 despite the heterogeneous market environment and increased its sales in all regions. Last year, the company delivered a total of 1,741,129 (2013: 1,575,480) automobiles of the Audi brand to its customers. This represents an increase of 10.5 percent (2013: 8.3 percent). The Audi Group increased its revenue by 7.8 percent to €53,787 million (2013: €49,880 million). Operating profit rose by 2.4 percent to €5,150 million (2013: €5,030 million). The operating return on sales amounted to 9.6 percent (2013: 10.1 percent).

Meanwhile, the Audi Group employs more than 80,000 people; the workforce grew by 5,732 employees in 2014. In order to strengthen its strategic growth path with well‑qualified employees, Audi will create additional jobs also in 2015. In Germany alone, the brand with the Four Rings plans to recruit 4,000 new employees; worldwide, more than 6,000 new employees are to help enhance the brand’s “Vorsprung durch Technik.”

The company intends to continue its growth this year and to deliver significantly more automobiles of the Audi brand than in 2014. One challenge is that the economic environment and the development of key currencies are rather volatile in 2015. At the same time, advance expenditure is growing for new production capacities, innovative technologies and attractive products. Another factor is the rising intensity of competition in major markets and the technological transformation of the automobile industry towards alternative drive concepts, in particular to fulfill stricter CO2 regulations worldwide.

Along with the targeted volume growth, the Audi Group’s revenue will rise moderately, depending on the economic conditions. The company anticipates an operating return on sales once again within strategic target corridor of eight to ten percent.

Fuel consumption of the models named above:

Audi Q3:
Combined fuel consumption in l/100 km: 8.4 – 4.4;
Combined CO2 emissions in g/km: 198 – 114**

Audi Q5:
Combined fuel consumption in l/100 km: 8.5 – 4.9;
Combined CO2 emissions in g/km: 199 – 129**

Audi Q7:
Fuel consumption combined, l/100 km 8.3 – 5.7;
Combined CO2 emissions in g/km: 193 – 149**

Audi RS 3 Sportback:
Fuel consumption combined in l/100 km: 8.1;
CO2 emissions combined in g/km: 189**

Audi R8:
Fuel consumption combined in l/100 km: 11.4;
CO2 emissions combined in g/km: 272**

Audi TT Roadster:
Fuel consumption combined in l/100 km: 6.0 – 4.3;
CO2 emissions combined in g/km: 140 – 114**

**The fuel consumption and the CO2 emissions of a vehicle vary due to the choice of wheels and tires. They not only depend on the efficient utilization of the fuel by the vehicle, but are also influenced by driving behavior and other non-technical factors.

Researchers produce first Audi “e-benzin”

Audi logs another success in the development of sustainable, synthetic fuels: Collaboration partner Global Bioenergies has produced the first batch of Audi “e-benzin”.

Audi “e-benzin” is synthetically produced without the use of petroleum. It is 100-percent iso-octane and therefore has an outstanding octane rating of RON 100. Because Audi “e-benzin” contains no sulfur or benzene, it burns very cleanly. It is thus a high-grade fuel that enables engines to use high compression ratios for enhanced efficiency. Audi will test the new fuel in the lab and in test engines. In the medium term, the company and Global Bioenergies aim to modify the process so that it requires no biomass, instead requiring just water, hydrogen, CO2 and sunlight.

Reiner Mangold, Head of Sustainable Product Development at AUDI AG, emphasized that Audi has taken a broad-based approach to the development of CO2-neutral, non-fossil fuels. “Global Bioenergies has demonstrated the viability of the Audi “e-benzin” production process. That is a big step in our Audi e-fuels strategy.” Audi is already producing larger quantities of “e-gas” (synthetic methane) on an industrial scale for its customers. Other research projects with various partners are dedicated to Audi “e-ethanol”, Audi “e-diesel” and Audi “e-benzin”.

Global Bioenergies S.A. operates a pilot plant for the production of isobutene, the starting material for Audi “e-benzin”, in the French town of Pomacle, near Reims. Isobutene is produced there from renewable raw materials rather than the usual petroleum. Another project partner is the Fraunhofer Center for Chemical-Biotechnological Processes (CPB) in Leuna, Saxony-Anhalt. Researchers there use hydrogen to transform the gaseous isobutene into liquid iso-octane. Global Bioenergies is building a demonstration plant at the Fraunhofer Center that will begin producing larger quantities in 2016.