May 10th – Faux-recia

Day 6:

Today was Faurecia, a large automotive supplier employing more than 110,000 people. More than one-third of all cars on the road have at least one Faurecia component inside. The facility that we saw today oversaw developing and producing the exhaust systems for different vehicles. Because this specific facility was located right in Augsburg, it was the only the company visit that we did not need to ride a bus to. Instead, we rode Augsburg’s tram, part of its well-maintained public transportation system.

The Augsburg tram. We received two-week unlimited tickets for the tram from the University of Augsburg on the first day of the trip.

Once we arrived at Faurecia, we were ushered to a conference room where we were told to put on a gown, safety glasses, and a steel toe that went over the top of the shoes we were wearing. This was for the factory tour, which we started right after everyone received their safety materials.

Faurecia, like the other company visits we have been on, unfortunately did not allow us to take pictures while on the tour.

On the tour, we were shown the research, development, and testing wings of the facility. Our first stop was an acoustically controlled room used to test the notes that the exhaust makes on different vehicles. It consisted of a large room with a 4-wheel dynamometer installed into the floor. A dynamometer is a device used to measure engine power output at varying speeds and RPM’s. What was really neat about the 4-wheel dynamometer was that in order to accommodate different vehicles, the length had to be variable. To achieve this, the rear rollers were on tracks that enabled them to be moved to the appropriate length of the test vehicle.

The walls of the room were what made this room an acoustically controlled room instead of a normal room. They were completely covered in a system of spikes designed to kill excess sound waves enabling someone to isolate a specific sound, such as an exhaust system in this case. The feeling of being in the room was a completely new and unique one. I have never experienced anything so quiet. It wasn’t just that the room was extremely quiet, but also the different way that voices sounded in that room. They sounded almost as if the volume on them was turned down and felt the way that a matte paint job looks. It is extremely hard to describe the feeling of being in that room.

This was not the inside of the room as we were not allowed to take photos, but it is another Faurecia acoustically controlled room with a very similar design to the room we were in.

One other interesting part of that room was the air filtration system. Your initial thought might be that a filtration system is necessary to keep the emissions from the exhaust reaching a dangerous level, and you would be right, but they also serve another purpose, that being to cool the engine. To take care of the exhaust, there are pipes that are placed near the tailpipes to efficiently remove most of the dangerous gases from the room. To cool the engine, the entire room must constantly circulate new air. The cars they are testing are often running at full tilt, and normally a car running in those conditions would be driving down a highway with air being pushed into the engine through the grill. In the room, the cars are stationary, so the air must be circulated in order to keep the engine cool.

Following the acoustic room, we went into their machine shop where they test new vehicle’s exhaust systems. In the shop, there was a row of car lifts, and one had an SUV in the factory black and white camouflage. They said that this was a common occurrence, as models that haven’t been released yet must be tested somehow. Our guide even said that they have a specific hidden garage to hold the vehicles that have not been officially unveiled by manufacturers. Upon closer inspection of the SUV, it was clear that it was some type of Land Rover, and my best guess (which I am fairly positive about) was that it was the new Range Rover Evoque, which was released very recently.

This is a new BMW 7 Series that I saw in Munich with its front and rear ends covered in the same style of camouflage that the Land Rover had. Being in Germany and around a number of different automakers, I have seen a number of these cars (mostly BMW’s) driving around on the streets and highways of Germany.

Also, in the machine shop were different engines sitting alone by themselves. One of them had red cylinder heads,, which are prominent on most Ferraris. We weren’t quite sure if it was a Ferrari engine or not until we looked closer when one of our group members pointed out a small Ferrari label on one of the hoses of the engine. After some deliberation, we determined it was an engine from the Ferrari 488 GTB, Ferrari’s mid-tier sports car model, sitting above the Portofino and below the 812 Superfast. We were able to tell this because on the engine it was clear that there were 8-cylinders, and there were two turbochargers on either side, directly corresponding to the 488’s twin-turbocharged V8.

An Audi V8 engine that was sitting in the lobby at Faurecia. I am fairly sure that it was an earlier model as it looked fairly dated, and from the red I figured it was a sportier model, so we came to the conclusion that it was probably from a 2006-2007 Audi S4, which were equipped with naturally aspirated V8’s

The last stop on the tour was a series of rooms where we saw how they test the exhaust systems with the engines themselves. They had isolated rooms with crankshaft dynamometers where they were able to run the engines by themselves and stress test the exhaust systems. This was neat to see, but unfortunately, we couldn’t see the engines in action. As they weren’t running any tests at the time.

Following the tour, we sat through a presentation on the company that I found completely uninteresting. The woman giving the presentation was very nice, but she didn’t seem to be qualified to present the information she was presenting. At the end of the presentation, I felt like I had gained very little information on the company from it. To make it worse, following the presentation we received two other pitches for internships that we would not be able to do. The first one was an internship designated for German master’s students, and the second was a year-long internship here that required you to pass an entrance exam in German. Overall, the presentation felt unprofessional, and after ending with that we all left with an overall poor opinion of Faurecia, even though the tour was so interesting.

After the visit, we took the tram back to the University of Augsburg and had lunch at the Mensa, the same place we had lunch on the first visit. Then, we attended a lecture on German politics given by Dr. Sebastian
Geßler. He taught us about the current happenings in the German government and also about the different parties in the German parliament. This involved the gradual decline of the more liberal Social Democrats (SPD, Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands) and the rise of the more conservative Alternative for Germany (AfD, Alternative für Deutschland). After the presentation, we got together with our group to get a plan for the Hirschvogel presentation. We ran through the requirements and assigned roles to each other for different sections.

Once we were finished with that, we split up and headed back to the hotel. I worked on the blogs for a while before going out to Vapiano’s (an Italian restaurant for dinner). I ordered this amazing lasagna, which filled me up for the rest of the night.

I forgot to take a picture of Vapiano’s while we were there, but this is a picture of the exact restaurant we ate at from Google, taken by Lulu A.

On the trips back and forth from Vapiano’s there were a lot of nice cars to see, and that combined with the lasagna really was what picked the day’s mood back up for me after Faurecia’s presentations. We also were super excited for our trip to Munich tomorrow (Saturday).

An early model Volkswagen Scirocco GTS (~2014) I saw on the way to Vapiano’s. The Scirocco is a European market only model.
A BMW E30 Touring, which is one of my favorite cars, in my favorite body style (~1993)

Takeaways of the day:
We had seen so many really great company presentations that we were getting spoiled. Seeing the Faurecia presentation really put the other ones in perspective. Continental’s presentation wasn’t groundbreaking, but its tour was, and both Hirschvogel’s and Audi’s presentations and tours were amazing. This really helped me to realize how much time and preparation went into making those as fantastic as they were.

Additionally, one little thing I have been noticing throughout Germany are the subtle sign differences. For example, exit signs here don’t say EXIT in giant red letters, but are instead smaller, green, and display rather a visual rather than a word. This is just one small example of the many small differences here that I noticed and thought was interesting.

Car of the day: Ford Focus RS mk2 (~2010)

This was the exact color and model of the one that was the runner up for day 1, the reason it won today was that I saw it parked on the side of the road and was able to walk around it and really get a good look at it. They were only sold on the European market and produced 305 horsepower, good for a 0-60 mph time of 5.9 seconds.

Runner up: Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio

This car came out for the 2016* model year and was the first offering of an Alfa Romeo in the United States in about twenty years. The Quadrifoglio is the sport version of the normal Giulia. It is equipped with a twin-turbocharged V6 that was sourced from Ferrari. If you know about the twin-turbocharged V8 from the Ferrari 488, this is essentially the same engine without the extra two cylinders. It produces 500 horsepower propelling the car from 0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds.

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