Production begins on the new Audi TT

As we sit and wait a year for the new Audi TT to arrive in the US, the German automaker has begun churning out the slickly-restyled little coupe for the rest of the world.

As was the case with the previous TT, the new car is built as part of a joint effort: bodywork and paint are done at the plant in Ingolstadt, and vehicle assembly is completed at Audi Hungaria's plant int Gyor. Just because the car is built in the same two places as before doesn't mean that the task of building the TT is a business-as-usual proposition, however. A 230-million Euro investment by Audi has resulted in wholesale changes to the TT construction process.

In Ingolstadt, most of the body components are pressed on site in the newly-modernized press shop. Those parts head over to a brand new body shop where they are assembled into the TT's shell. That process is almost fully automated, involving the use of over 200 robots. The completed shells are then painted and subsequently shipped by train to Gyor for final assebly.

When the trains arrive in Hungary, the TT bodies are offloaded and moved directly to the production line, which is 240 meters long and is made up of 65 individual workstations. The assembly process itself was overhauled with an eye towards maximizing efficiency while retaining optimal build quality. The net result is that the new TT takes only 10 hours to build (versus 15 for the outgoing car) and is as robust as ever when it rolls off the line.

(Audi press release and production line photos follow after the jump.)

[Source: Audi AG]

Ingolstadt/Györ, June 2006

New Audi TT built jointly by plants in Ingolstadt and Györ:

230 million euros invested in sports car production

•    Body shop and press shop in Ingolstadt as the largest item
•    Hungarian plant in Györ a "small but exclusive TT assembly location"
•    Faustmann: "The TT has become almost a national symbol in Hungary"

Launching a fascinating sports car such as the Audi TT in the highest quality calls for innovative production methods. For this purpose the Ingolstadt brand
has invested approximately 230 million euros in new production technology and equipment. "Just like its predecessor, the new TT will be a joint production effort. Whereas the body will be built and painted at the main Audi plant in Ingolstadt, the final assembly of the TT Coupé, and later the TT Roadster, will take place at AUDI HUNGARIA MOTOR Kft. in Györ. This joint production method has proven to be a success since 1998. It therefore made sense to continue this successful partnership in the production of the successor model," explains  Dr. Jochem Heizmann, Board Member for Production at AUDI AG.

Thomas Faustmann, Chairman of the Board of Management at Audi Hungaria, proudly adds: "We have firmly established ourselves in the past few years as a small, exclusive assembly plant for vehicles." He continues: "Our employees are very pleased that the new TT is also going to be assembled in Györ. People in Hungary almost regard this car as a national symbol."

Ultimately both locations will benefit: numerous employees work in the press shop, body shop and paint shop of the TT production facility in Ingolstadt, with around 300 people working in the body shop alone.

The major share of the total investment was allocated to the main production plant in Germany. Amongst other items, investments in the press shop and the body shop each amounted to approximately 100 million euros. Around 20 million euros were invested in the Hungarian plant, primarily in new assembly plant equipment.

The TT body shop in Ingolstadt is completely new. The special body of the Audi TT Coupé is built here on an area of around 15,000 square metres. The body has an overall weight of 206 kilograms, 140 kilograms of which is aluminium and 66 kilograms steel.

Heizmann: "The lightweight design principle Audi Space Frame (ASF) has been further developed on the new TT and now also incorporates steel elements. If the body was built entirely of steel, it would be 48 percent heavier." The individual components of the TT bodyshell, in total 277 – the majority of which are produced at its own press shop in Ingolstadt – are joined together in a "park" of 247 robots. The degree of automation is 95 percent.

After the completed bodyshells have been painted in one of twelve standard colours or have been given one of the many special paint finishes, they are loaded onto trains at the plant. The TT bodyshells embark on the approximately 650 kilometre-long trip from Ingolstadt to Györ in Hungary in special closed wagons. "It takes a good eleven hours on average for the trains to arrive here," says Ferenc Dankó, Head of Vehicle Logistics at Audi Hungaria. Up to three trains make this journey per day.

There are, however, limits to the permissible transport volume: each freight train may have a maximum length of 650 metres and a maximum weight of 1,400 tonnes. And the trains do not just carry TT bodyshells – engine parts and a large number of elements, components and modules for the TT are also on board. "Altogether," says Dankó, "our Logistics department accounts for an average of 3,000 parts in its material planning for the new TT."

Having arrived in Györ, the wagons are transported into the body shop hall. The transport cradles, in which the TT bodyshells are suspended, are unloaded by a special fork-lift truck and are taken directly to the assembly line which begins immediately here. Georg Prellwitz, Head of Vehicle Production in Györ, has a birds-eye view of this point from his desk in the open-plan office on the first floor of the TT assembly shop which covers an area of approximately 35,000 square metres. The assembly line is 240 metres long, and after having gone through 65 work stations, a finished TT comes off the line.  There are still a few checks to be done such as wheel alignment, leak testing and the final inspection in the technical testing area.

Production will run at full capacity next year, according to Prellwitz. The TT Coupé will then be joined by production of the TT Roadster. "From that point onwards, we'll be operating on the basis of a three-shift system," explains Prellwitz. And this is by no means all: "Although the new TT contains more technical features than the predecessor model, we have already succeeded in cutting the previous production time from 15 hours down to the current ten."

Each step was analysed in detail by experts from the area of process design. Where is it possible to reduce the number of individual steps, where can processes be made more efficient and quicker? The assembly line of the new TT was completely redesigned from the bottom up. Martin Liebl guarantees that reduced production time is not at the cost of quality. Liebl is Head of Vehicle Assembly Quality Assurance in Györ and has a very low tolerance level, at least with regard to the gap widths of the TT. Deviations to a tenth of a millimetre are chasms for Liebl. Cars are regularly taken out of the production process and tested by laser measurement.

"In Hungary we build cars to the highest quality standards, just like the other Audi locations, too. We don't make any compromises; after all, we have to compete with the best in the world," says Liebl. He can rely on his team in this respect; they have been intensively trained for the assembly of the new Audi TT and its technology and already have over eight years of experience in production on the basis of the predecessor model.

Liebl is embarking on a so-called "robustness design process" in Györ together with workers and engineers from different areas of expertise. Both bought-in parts and process quality are being fine-tuned to the highest standards. Liebl: "At the end, when the finished TT models are taken back to Ingolstadt by train and then go to the dealers, we want a sports car which is worthy of the "Made by Audi" title.


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