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Mexico manufacturing maintains Audi quality mantra

Five star: With its shiny new factory now online in San Jose Chiapa, Audi has the capacity to knock out 150,000 Q5 SUVs each year.

Audi starts to reap the rewards of a challenging Mexico factory super-project

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Audi logo1 Dec 2016

By DANIEL GARDNER in MEXICO

WITH the second-generation Q5 now in large-scale production, Audi’s new 400-hectare manufacturing facility in San José Chiapa is in full swing, but the German car-maker says the quality of its popular mid-sized SUV will not suffer with production moving outside of its home market.

Until now, Australian-market Q5 production has been at Audi’s home ground in Ingolstadt, Germany but with the company’s big plans to expand worldwide production by 500,000 vehicles per year and its line-up to 60 models by 2020, Q5 production shifted overseas.

Despite the significant change in manufacturing, Audi has implemented a strict quality management, training and production culture to preserve the quality of its “first true Mexican Audi in the line-up”.

Speaking to GoAuto at the international Q5 launch in Mexico, Q5 product marketing manager Michael Claus said the commissioning of the Mexican factory had been the greatest challenge of the new model development but its quality would not be detrimentally affected and was even likely to improve.

“I think the biggest challenge for the project was to have the connection with Mexico,” he said. “In every project you will face difficult situations that you have to overcome but we did.

“Our standards on quality do not change just because we build a car in Mexico.

“It will definitely be minimum our normal standard, if we exceed our already high standard then we will take that of course.”

Mr Claus explained that a critical part of the transition to overseas Q5 manufacturing was to invite more than 750 of the new Mexican workforce to Germany for training before sending the employees back to San José Chiapa to pass the program on to more staff.

“We had a lot of people from Mexico, once we employed them we brought them over to Ingolstadt for training, we integrated them into our daily work so that they were mirroring us in our daily work.

“Then we moved all of these mirrors to Mexico to build all of our counterparts of the project team in Mexico. That intercultural training that we did helped us understand the Mexican culture and approaches and they could bring back what they learned from us in Ingolstadt.”

While the factory might be a long way from home, Audi built the new facility to the same exacting standards as its German factory and even exceeded global standards in some areas, with the site serving as a flagship for the company.

“It’s state of the art and the most modern in our own company and the most modern on the North American continent, for example, in the press shop or paint shop,” said Mr Claus.

Efficiency and environmental protection features highly at the facility with recycling systems so efficient that no waste water is expelled from the plant, while other pioneering technology has reduced electricity, gas and water consumption.

The factory required a massive investment of more than €1bn ($A1.4bn) and was completed in record time – 30 per cent faster than is usual for a facility of its kind. Audi selected Mexico as the site for its latest factory for a combination of advantages including 12 free-trade agreements with 50 countries.

At full capacity, the site can turn out 150,000 vehicles per year with only the Q5 confirmed for production at the site but it is likely the company will add models to its repertoire, including the forthcoming Q2.

By the end of the year 4200 jobs will have been created at the site but its operations are also stimulating businesses in the immediate area with more than 100 suppliers and sub-manufacturers supplying the factory. More than 70 per cent of the Q5’s components are sourced from within the NAFTA region.

Mr Claus concluded by saying that the problems encountered in transitioning to a new foreign factory were only resolved though “confidence in the process and confidence in our strength” and the support of a a team unified by one cause.

“We grew together as a family and it was always a trustworthy correlation between teams,” he said.

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