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VW’s new German EV plant to counter Tesla

Castling for volume: Volkswagen's proposed new Wolfsburg plant could produce vehicles at a similar rate to Tesla’s Berlin gigafactory.

Future Wolfsburg facility to produce flagship Volkswagen EV codenamed Trinity

10 Nov 2021

VOLKSWAGEN is reportedly planning to construct a new hi-tech production facility close to its Wolfsburg headquarters in a bid to stay one step ahead of EV rival Tesla. 


Tesla has a new Berlin gigafactory capable of building 5000 vehicles per week – according to CEO Elon Musk – that will produce its Model Y for European consumption, and could raise production to 500,000 vehicles a year once operating at its peak.


GoAuto understands the new Volkswagen plant would be used to produce the brand’s flagship all-electric model codenamed Trinity.


The long-range sedan with ultra-fast charging times is slated to launch in 2026 and will challenge Tesla and other rivals by offering what Volkswagen says are “highly automated” driving features.


Volkswagen brand CEO Ralf Bradstaetter said that constructing a new facility would be less complex that retooling existing operations and that once established, the plant would be capable of producing approximately 250,000 vehicles annually – half that proposed by rival Tesla.


“That’s why we are planning a greenfield construction: efficient and without limitations by existing structures. That way we are gaining time and space to gradually modernise the main factory in a far-reaching way and raise production there, too, to a new level,” said Mr Brandstaetter.


Mr Brandstaetter did not provide a cost estimate for the factory whose construction still requires approval from the car-maker’s supervisory board. A final decision could be made next month when key stakeholders review the group’s five-year spending plans.


The news follows last week’s report that Volkswagen Group CEO Herbert Diess had urged workers to prepare for “faster reforms” as the company plotted a course to keep pace with Tesla’s planned production volumes.


He cautioned that Tesla is improving production quality while at the same time considerably reducing the manufacturing time of its vehicles.


Mr Diess said that Tesla was capable of producing a vehicle in just 10 hours, a third as much time as it takes to build an electric vehicle at Volkswagen’s primary EV factory in Zwickau. 


Estimates provided by Mr Brandstaetter say the new plant could reduce production time to between 10 and 12 hours per vehicle because “a new factory would offer more efficient logistics and cause less interference for the production of the Golf and Tiguan models at the current Wolfsburg plant”.


Consistent with its name, the Trinity model would bring together three crucial themes for Volkswagen’s new halo model; its newly developed electronics platform with state-of-the-art software, the simplification of its supply chain, and ‘fully networked and intelligent production’ at VW’s new plant.


“Trinity is a sort of crystallisation point for our Accelerate strategy, a lighthouse project, our software dream car,” Mr Brandstaetter said of the future model.


“We are using our economies of scale to make autonomous driving available to many people and to build a learning neural network. In this way, we are creating the conditions for the continuous exchange of data from our vehicle fleet – for example, on the traffic situation, on obstacles, or on accidents.


“Trinity therefore becomes a kind of ‘time machine’ for our customers,” he added.


Volkswagen said previously that future models such as the Trinity will be produced with “considerably fewer” variants than today’s standards and that hardware will be largely standardised.


Customers will get to activate on-board functions as desired, VW saying the process would “significantly reduce complexity in production”.


“In the future, the individual configuration of the vehicle will no longer be determined by the hardware at the time of purchase. Instead, customers will be able to add functions on demand at any time via the digital ecosystem in the car,” said Mr Brandstaetter.

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