Forget pride - if a competitor is better, you take notes.
When it comes to the business of electric cars, Tesla currently has the biggest target on its back. Manufacturers that have histories spanning close to a century are investing billions of dollars in an attempt to catch up with the relatively young American manufacturer. Among these is Volkswagen with new arrivals like the ID.4 and other electric cars.
Tesla has become even more of a threat to the established European brands now that it has an operational factory in Berlin, Germany. At this facility, it is reported that a single Model Y can be built from start to finish in just 10 hours. At that pace, existing car companies will surely struggle to keep up, but rather than sulk, VW is learning from the innovative company.
Volkswagen doesn't seem too concerned about being left in the dust now that plans for an all-new $2.2 billion factory focused on electric car production are mere weeks away from being finalized. Volkswagen brand production chief Christian Vollmer explains that this new production facility - where a groundbreaking new EV called Project Trinity is to be produced - will help its efforts to cut production times. "Our goal is clear: we want to set the standard with our production," Vollmer told Reuters. "If we can get to 10 hours, we have achieved something big."
Currently, the company is celebrating a 5% improvement in productivity overall compared with last year but this still isn't enough to close the gap with the competition. The new plant is scheduled to be ready for operations by 2026, but in the meantime, Tesla has the production advantage. So how did it get there and what can VW do to catch up?
Part of Tesla's advantage in the sphere is that it only has to focus on electric vehicles. Other companies need to create both internal combustion and electric cars, which can place a significant toll on their finances. "Tesla really ignited the drive for reducing part counts and making simpler products," explains former Tesla engineering boss Evan Horetsky. "Legacy manufacturers have a more difficult time because they have to maintain current orders."
How is Tesla able to put Model Y units together so quickly? A spokesperson of the brand revealed that the secret is in its revolutionary pair of giga-presses that place a staggering 6,000 tonnes of pressure to form the rear section of the car. With this, 17 components can be produced in six minutes, and that's the key for Volkswagen too.
Volkswagen recognizes this technology's benefits and hopes to introduce the giga-casting technique at some of its facilities. Currently, it employs the now old-fashioned method of creating each stamped metal panel individually with crumple zones that adhere to modern safety standards.
Where is Volkswagen right now in terms of production times? The ID.3 benefits from several modern construction techniques but seeing as it is sharing production lines with other cars, each unit takes about 30 hours to assemble. In contrast, the brand can put a Tiguan together in just 18 hours at its German plant. That's still some way off Tesla's 10-hour program, but you can bet that VW will get more efficient with every year that passes.