Less than two months ago, the Volkswagen Group opened a new facility in Oxnard, California (about an hour's drive west of Los Angeles). The $27 million investment, touted as Test Center California (TCC), serves as a research and development lab testing emissions for all brands under Volkswagen's umbrella, including its newest member, Porsche. While still not fully operational, we toured the new 64,000-square-foot building last week and had a first-hand opportunity to see just how much work is involved testing engines and meeting increasingly stringent government emissions standards.
Replacing a similar facility established in 1990 in Westlake Village (about 20-minutes east of the new location), our guide explained how Oxnard was chosen for its temperate climate, varied regional terrain for test drives and low altitude. (The area is only a few feet above sea level – a critical parameter when instrument testing emissions.) The new facility is capable of analyzing hundreds of vehicles, prototypes and customer-owned vehicles, annually.
Most interesting to us was the huge stainless steel climate chamber, with a massive four-wheel dynamometer that allows VW to test running vehicles in both scorching desert and freezing climates without ever leaving the building (an Audi Q7 was running in place during our visit). We were also mesmerized by the countless storage tanks and intricate plumbing of chemicals, stored in both liquid and gas states, needed to perform the variety of tests. Lastly, we took a look at Bugatti's service center on the west coast, located completely within the new center. While there were no supercars on site, the facility is equipped with plenty of spare forged wheels (mounted with expensive Michelin PAX tires) and a Veyron-specific repair jig that allows the vehicle to be completely disassembled, if needed. It is a shame that the facility, which set off all of our automotive geek alerts, is closed to the public.