May 9th: The long-awaited day for many of the students on the trip had finally arrived: the tour of Audi Headquarters.
Everyone began the day incredibly excited to get to see Audi Headquarters; well, everyone except me who was sick from the food the night before. For most of the company visit I was trying to stay upright and avoid becoming dizzier, but this made it difficult to fully enjoy and embrace the amazing tour we were given. When we arrived at Audi it was clear that they lived up to the name of being a huge employer for Bavaria. The headquarters was campus style, taking up the size and appearance of a decently sized city, consisting of not only the factory buildings, but also a museum, food court, and fitness center.
We started the tour by going to the body shop for the cars to see how they were made. In the beginning process, most of the manufacturing was done by robots to do spot welding. From the body shop, we moved onto the assembly line where it was mostly people doing the work. The had a slow-moving line of cars that the employees would work on as they moved past so that it could be continuously moving through the production process. They started by removing the doors to the car, which were completely separated from the car and moved on a conveyor belt to another room while the employees worked on the car doing different stages.
One observation we made was that there were a lot more women in this factory than there were in the previous companies we have been to. Our tour guide actually mentioned that 11% of the employees in the factory were women, which was incredibly surprising. For a company like Hirschvogel where we only saw like 4 women in the factory, they must have a significantly low percentage of women in comparison. What was even more surprising (and frankly upsetting) was that Audi has a total of 15% women employees in the company as a whole, this includes the factory and corporate side. For a company as large as Audi, it’s very disturbing that they do not set higher standards for themselves to improve the employment ratio. Although women are highly underrepresented in the automobile industry, change can only start from the larger companies who make goals for improvement.
Following the factory tour, we were able to have a presentation by Guido Bauer and his associate, two men who work with Audi who had a connection to Dr. Feick. From the connection they had to Dr. Feick, we were able to have a more extensive conversation with them as opposed to the other company tours. Both of them were higher up in the company and had more knowledge to give us, so we all left feeling satisfied with our questions answered.
As a member of Volkswagen Group, Audi sets itself as being the highest in both progressive and premium categories. This is a large focus for their brand, they made it a note whenever we talked about different innovations that they would only do work that tied to their brand. For example, when discussing Tesla and the “out there” innovations they are working on, Audi is working on doing electric and autonomous vehicles but is still focusing it to a premium market. With electric vehicles being the largest focus at the moment, this tied in with they long term goal of zero emissions by 2050. We were able to see ads and the car that will be on the market in the US soon, the E-Tron, which was their first fully electric car.
I have personally been very interested in the marketing of electric cars. As I discussed a little bit in my Intro to Marketing class, when there is new technology to the consumer, advertising often has to be switched to be more informative. This is very crucial for the electric car market because most consumers have questions and concerns about the new technology and have hesitations towards switching over. With Audi, it is interesting because they market themselves as a premium brand, so their marketing cannot solely be focused on the new features of a car as a luxury, but rather selling the new technology itself. I’m interested in seeing how all companies with electric vehicles use advertising to give consumers answers and reassurance as more begin to emerge on the market.
After going back home to Augsburg, we went as a group to get Döner for dinner. Justin had recommended we check out getting Döner, which is a Turkish meal, and all I can say is that it exceeded my expectations by 100%. I went into the restaurant still feeling sick, expecting it to be a heavy German meal that I wouldn’t want, but it ended up being one of my favorite meals on the trip.
Overall, I started the day feeling very sick but made a very good recovery by the end. I’m somewhat sad that I wasn’t in the best state for the factory tour because I think I could have enjoyed it more, but I’m still happy I was healthy enough to go. The highlight of the day was definitely the Doner meal, I can’t wait to go back there again.