A total of 1,465 people work in the area of Technical Development at Audi’s site in Neckarsulm (as of December 31, 2014). This includes quattro GmbH, the lightweight construction center, the development of gasoline and diesel engines, motorsport engines and special engines as well as the development of car interiors.
At Audi’s lightweight construction center in Neckarsulm, approximately 200 people cooperate closely with research institutes and industrial partners. One important element is the new department for carbon-fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP).
The expertise gained in the lightweight construction center in Neckarsulm has so far resulted in 18 car bodies and a triple-digit number of lightweight-construction patents. Furthermore, Audi has already won the “Euro Car Body Award” four times; this is the world’s most important competition for car body builders.
In 1994, Audi launched the first car in the world produced in a large series with a monocoque aluminum body: the Audi A8. Since then, the company has continually extended its lead over the competition in lightweight construction and has reversed the weight spiral. The engineers make use of the fact that a low body weight also has positive effects on many other components of the overall vehicle – from the engine to the cable harness.
In the new Audi R8, the premium manufacturer is using carbon-fiber-reinforced plastics (CFRP) for the first time also in the load-bearing structure of the car body. Despite high levels of additional equipment and higher stiffness, the total weight of the new super sports car is up to 50 kilograms lower than its predecessor. The Audi Space Frame (ASF) in multi-material construction contributes to the lower weight and to the optimal weight distribution between the axles. The combination of aluminum and carbon fiber in the Audi Space Frame enters a new dimension in terms of weight, stiffness and crash behavior, and is the benchmark in the super sports car segment. Aluminum, high-strength and ultra-high-strength steel alloys, magnesium and carbon-fiber reinforced plastics – Audi has detailed and comprehensive knowledge of all body materials from its development work. The philosophy here is “the right material in the right place in the minimum amount required.” The engineers at the Neckarsulm lightweight construction center are pushing the competition between materials forwards, constantly in search of even better solutions. The Audi car body of the future will use these high-end materials in various combinations, depending on the model. The company has steadily expanded its expertise; particularly in the area of manufacturing, numerous high-tech methods have been added. These innovative technologies are implemented at strategically important suppliers, which in turn supply Audi and other brands of the Volkswagen Group. For Audi, lightweight construction means not only material science, but also the full spectrum of process technology, the development of new bonding technologies, and quality assurance including the development of service and repair possibilities.
The development of various engines is an important cornerstone of the Neckarsulm site. In addition to V diesel and V gasoline engines for the larger models, the engines for motorsport applications are also developed here.
In 2014, Audi celebrated a very special jubilee – 25 years of the TDI. In the fall of 1989, the company presented the Audi 100 at the Frankfurt Motor Show with a 2.5-liter TDI – a turbo diesel engine with direct fuel injection and full electronic control. Ever since its early days, this technology has been connected with the engine development unit in Neckarsulm. Approximately 170 people work on the development of the TDI in Neckarsulm. Worldwide, Audi has so far sold about 7.5 million cars with TDI engines. The Audi RS 5 TDI concept technology study attracted great attention during the jubilee year. The 3.0-liter TDI engine with an electronically driven biturbo delivers 283 kilowatts (385 horsepower) and a maximum torque of 750 newton meters.
2014 was a successful year also for the development of racing engines: In front of nearly 300,000 spectators, Audi won its 13th 24 Hours of Le Mans in just 16 attempts. The company regards motorsport as ideal testing for series production – and the toughest test bed of all is the Le Mans endurance race. The same requirements apply to the sports prototypes in Le Mans as to the series-produced cars: getting the most out of every drop of fuel, increasing efficiency and continuously reducing fuel consumption. The engine for the R 18 is completely developed, produced and quality assured in Neckarsulm, and it is further developed and tested on the test stands in Neckarsulm and Ingolstadt. Approximately 60 people work in the area of engine development.
Since 1983, quattro GmbH based in Neckarsulm has stood for high performance and high technology. In addition to developing and constructing the RS and R8 models, the Audi subsidiary is responsible for automobile individualization and accessories as well as customer motorsport.
Since the fall of 2014, the super sports car R8 has been driving off the assembly lines at Audi Böllinger Höfe, which is about six kilometers from the main plant in Neckarsulm. Various production areas that were previously in separate buildings in Neckarsulm have now been brought together under one roof. Pre-series and series production as well as quality assurance benefit in particular from fast and interdisciplinary connections. The Neckarsulm site has thus strengthened its small-series expertise. The newly created production area is even more efficient and can be used more flexibly due to technological and ergonomic innovations.
In summer 2014, quattro GmbH presented the Audi R8 LMX, and launched the super sports car on the market in a limited edition. With the Audi R8 LMX, the brand with the Four Rings has introduced the next level of automotive lighting technology: the laser-spot high beam. It once again increases range significantly, which is ideal for a sports car like the R8 LMX. Other models were also presented in 2014: the elegant RS 7 Sportback (the high-performance sports car for every day and leisure time), the Audi RS 6 Avant, the further development of the compact high-performance SUV Audi RS Q3 and the new RS 3 Sportback, the most powerful car in the compact class of the premium segment. With the jubilee model RS 4 Avant Nogaro selection, Audi celebrated the 20th anniversary of the RS models at the Geneva Motor Show.
quattro GmbH is also at the forefront in motorsport. Never before was the Audi R8 LMS ultra as successful as in the past racing season: The teams of Audi Sport customer racing won a total of 15 titles in Australia, Asia and Europe. The successful model also won three endurance races. With two victories in the 24-hour races at the Nürburgring and at Spa, the Audi drivers won the most important GT3 endurance races. The racing drivers were always able to rely on the performance and reliability of the Audi R8 LMS ultra, of which 50 percent is made of components from series products. Worldwide, more than 120 of the Audi R8 LMS have been delivered to customers since 2009, which quattro GmbH develops, produces and markets. In more than 1,000 races, the cars have meanwhile gained 269 victories and 27 championships.