New VW Multivan assembly begins in modernised production facility in Hannover

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At Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles (VWCV) the first production vehicles of the new Multivan are coming off the line. It marks the first time that a Multivan with a plug-in hybrid engine has been made in Hannover. As well as the new drive system, the new Multivan provides greater comfort and safety, plus an innovative interior – and yet remains 100% a Multivan. The start of production is a milestone in the transformation process of the main VWCV plant. This, however, does not mean that the remodelling in the factory is finished: preparations are currently underway for production of the fully electric ID. BUZZ next year.

Start of series production of the new Multivan in Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles’ Hannover plant.

The integration of the new Multivan into the production processes and the construction of new manufacturing facilities were done while production in the plant carried on in parallel. “For all of us in Hannover that was a challenging task, which was executed in every detail”, says Josef Baumert, Board of Management Member for Production and Logistics at VWCV. Despite the challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the fraught situation with regards to supply of some parts, series production of the new Multivan is now starting on schedule. Baumert: “It has been a fantastic team effort, of which we here in Hannover can be very proud.”

More efficient production

The expansion of automation and the systematic implementation of the digitalisation strategy in the manufacturing operation is increasing production efficiency once again. Take the body shop as an example: in the T6.1 manufacturing process the degree of automation is around 77%, with the new Multivan it is 93%. “The systematic improvement of productivity is an investment in the future”, says Baumert. Machine supervisors look after multiple stages in parallel from one control stand. They are in constant contact with the machines via smart watch digital devices. If any parts are needed or servicing is due, this gets reported well in advance, thus avoiding any downtime.

In the paint shop, having had a new topcoat system commissioned two years ago, a new bi-colour system is now in use. It’s here that the new Multivan vehicles get their popular two-tone paintwork finishes.

An automated logistics systems for parts increases efficiency in the assembly process. Self-driving carrier vehicles in the factory bring parts directly from the stores to the assembly lines. In the future, T6.1, Multivan, ID. BUZZ and ID. BUZZ Cargo will all be made on just two main lines. “It’s an outstanding feat of both planning and logistics”, says Baumert.

Training and skills programmes for employees

“We are taking our employees with us into the future in the transformation of the plant”, says Nassia Zdravkova, Head of HR Germany. Training sessions in the production department on the new models’ start-ups, the manufacturing processes and in particular the subject of electric mobility are running continually. For this the company is, for instance, making increased use of virtual training sessions, in which employees are able to familiarise themselves with new workflows using VR glasses.

New jobs are also being created in the area of production through the ongoing digitalisation and automation. Employees are being selected for these through skills development programmes and prepared for them through targeted training courses. “Right now there is a programme running to develop data analysts internally. That’s a skill that we’ll increasingly be using in the near future in vehicle manufacturing. The course participants do not have any specialist IT knowledge, but have the right skills to be trained up for the tasks”, says Zdravkova. 

Change4Factory production strategy and ‘Sustainable Factory’

Starting series production of the new Multivan as a plug-in hybrid is a milestone in the electrification of production in the Hannover plant. As of 2022, three vehicles will be simultaneously made here on three vehicle platforms and with three drive system variants: the T6.1, the new Multivan and fully electric ID. BUZZ. From 2025 onwards, further fully electric premium models for other Group brands will also be made here. Baumert: “In this way we are becoming one of the most modern factories in the Volkswagen Group. Connected, digital and highly automated.”

With the Change4Factory production strategy, VWCV’s production and logistics departments are actively managing the transformation of the sites. In addition to efficient car making, the ‘Sustainable Factory’ is a core element of this strategy: a factory without any negative impact on the environment – that’s the vision. This works directly to the benefit of the Group objective of having a carbon-neutral footprint by 2050. “The CO2 reduction in production is a key instrument in achieving this objective”, says Baumert. Put in concrete terms: as a first step, VWCV is aiming by 2025 to have lowered the environmental impact in the production process by 50% compared to 2010. Hundreds of measures are being implemented to this end in the factory in order to cut emissions, to organise the use of resources more sustainably, to avoid waste and to promote biodiversity. “The hard work is paying off, and we’re well on the way to achieving our ambitious targets”, says Baumert.

The latest generation of the Multivan

The new Multivan is the first vehicle to go into full production in Hannover based on the Modular Transverse Matrix (MQB). Conceptually, it is making a huge leap: included for the first time in the drive system programme is a plug-in hybrid. Also included is a new evolutionary stage of connected driver assist, operating and infotainment systems. A new interior concept makes the Multivan even more versatile.

The 160 kW / 218 PS plug-in-hybrid (PHEV) drive system brings zero on-road emissions and long range into full alignment with low total consumption. In addition, the Multivan is launching with two turbo petrol engines (100 kW / 136 PS and 150 kW / 204 PS), before as soon as early 2022 a turbo diesel delivering 110 kW / 150 PS follows.

Prices for the new Multivan start at €44,839.20. Customers have been able to place advance orders since the start of this week. The launch in Germany is in November.