This morning, I ate the same hotel breakfast I had for the past six days – powdered eggs with chives and fruit salad with a cup of machine-made coffee. Then, we took the tram to a company called Faurecia on the outskirts of Augsburg that I had never heard of. From what I understood, they produce interior parts of cars and exhaust systems. When we arrived at the company, there was a brief misunderstanding regarding the level of identification we needed to enter, but we were all allowed in with little trouble.
Unlike at the other companies, there was no company introduction before the tour, so I was still unclear about what Faurecia really does. We put on rubber shoe covers and glasses for the tour almost upon arrival. The tour guide was an engineer for the company and took us through a hallway where they were performing various tests on components of cars. The tests were designed to replicate situations the car parts may encounter in the real world. The guide spoke very technically about the tests and what was happening in each room, which made it hard to for me to really understand the factory due to my limited knowledge on this type of testing.
My favorite part of the tour was the sound proofing room. Our whole group entered it at once, and there was no background noise at all around us. Everyone’s voice sounded somewhat quieter and different. The room was used to test exhaust systems, which at that point I understood to be Faurecia’s main product line. As we walked through the rest of the factory, there were very few workers there and almost no robots, unlike we had seen at the other three companies. I felt as if we did not see the factory in action. In general, it looked older and less technologically advance than what we had seen earlier in the week.
After the tour, a talent scout for Faurecia gave us the company presentation. (We also ate butter pretzels, which seemed like a weird concept, but they’re actually really good.) She clarified that Faurecia’s main product is exhaust systems. This was a little alarming to hear because we had heard from all three other companies that the car industry is rapidly toward electric cars that have no exhaust system. Thus, Faurecia’s main product will be obsolete in the near future. However, the presented assured that Faurecia is compensating for the projected decline in sales of exhaust systems by developing products for ships. From what I could tell, Faurecia does not have good branding. The presenter said that there are many ways to pronounce “Faurecia” and no one way is correct, and that people often do not know of Faurecia because the name is not printed on their products, something that their competitors do. Both of these statements indicate a lack of brand equity, an essential part of a strong company. The presentation got a little awkward when it turned into a recruiting pitch. Three different people encouraged us to apply to company programs. If we weren’t already confused, we soon found out that one was a master’s program and the other one was for European citizens (which very few of us are) and requires a German proficiency test.
We left Faurecia on the tram and headed to the Universität Augsburg for a politics lecture by Sebastian Gebler, who described himself as the equivalent of the “chief of staff to the house minority whip” of Bavaria. He was very credible, and his presentation certainly increased my knowledge of German politics and how governments with more than two parties function. While I already knew of the rise of the alt-right in Germany (the party called Alternative for Germany), I was unaware how popular the Green Party is becoming at the expense of Social Democrats. I also really appreciated how Dr. Gebler often made analogies to American politics. This made it much easier to understand and learn from.
Lastly, we worked on our company presentations with the German students. I cannot help feeling behind the other groups as the only group that has not already seen their company. Still, we are doing our best to do as much research as possible and develop a list of important questions before the visit. Meeting with our whole group together, including the German students, assured me that we all work well together, and I should not be anxious about our presentation. I went to sleep that night feeling relaxed about the presentation and excited for Munich!