Audi predicts big change in the way cars are built within the next 10 years, involving autonomous vehicles delivering components
Julian Rendell
17 November 2016

Audi is predicting the end of the conventional production line, which will be replaced by a new modular assembly method.

The shake-up will be a remarkable change for an industry that has been organised around a fixed production line every since Henry Ford created the Model T over 100 years ago. The modular system will be introduced on Lamborghini Urus production in Italy. An approximate timeframe is "major change within 10 years", according to Audi officials.

"Audi is convinced that the assembly line has had its day, because as model diversity grows, the more complicated it becomes to master complexity in a rigid sequential process," says the company.

The push is being accelerated by the shift to electrified powertrains, which require cars to be taken onto a spur, built alongside the conventional production line, where electric motors and batteries are fitted.

"The conventionally powered cars are not worked on during this time, so the time until completion becomes longer for all the cars on the line," says Audi.

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“While this is going on, its sister models with conventional drive move along the conveyor belt suspended below the ceiling,” says Audi.

A plug-in Audi A3 Sportback e-tron passes through seven separate workstations for its electrical powertrain, through assembly stations that internal combustion-engined A3s don’t pass through.

While the e-tron is being made, the conventional A3s can’t progress down the production line.

Instead of a production line, Audi will break assembly down into individual work areas, staffed by one or two workers.

Audi says their workload can be better managed to even out the workload.

“They work steadily at a continuous pace, because they no longer have to adapt their activities to the speed of the line,” says Audi.

To move cars between the modular workstations, Audi envisages a fleet of automatically guided vehicles, matched to smaller ‘driverless transport systems’, to supply components just in time.

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Comments
10

17 November 2016
They could introduce a second 'overtaking' lane, but I think all the Audis would just sit in the outside lane and refuse to move over....

17 November 2016
pauld101 wrote:

They could introduce a second 'overtaking' lane, but I think all the Audis would just sit in the outside lane and refuse to move over....

Congratulations, you have won the internet, I literally spat out my coffee when I read that..

17 November 2016
This is only a temporary phase - till all cars are electric.

Stuart21

17 November 2016
In all honesty they dont need a production line at Audi... All they will do is install a massive photocopier and change the zoom and colour settings for the models.

Zoom settings
A8 = 100%
A7 = 90%
A6 = 80%
A5 = 70%
A4 = 60%
A3 = 50%
A1 = 40%

17 November 2016
There is no reason with RTF technology that a car company cannot have a line split off and merge back later and not prevent the cars behind them not getting built. The machines that carry parts to various stations are already a reality. This seems like Audi is trying to reinvent the wheel, almost literally.

17 November 2016
have discovered a problem with its production line and is trying to make excuses for delivery delays, I have not heard of any other manufacturer having or complaining about these sort of problems. Its not as if they even make that many compared to the likes of Toyota/Lexus.

17 November 2016
A lot of stupid snide comments from armchair fools who wouldn't know the difference between body in white and final assembly. It's pretty obvious that the more products start to be more diverse and individual the more difficult they become to produce within a traditional mass production environment. There's a reason why Ford offered the model T in any colour as long as it was black. Audi are talking about treating each car individually with a dedicated team overseeing its build. If they can maintain production volumes this can only be a benefit for quality

17 November 2016
A lot of stupid snide comments from armchair fools who wouldn't know the difference between body in white and final assembly. It's pretty obvious that the more products start to be more diverse and individual the more difficult they become to produce within a traditional mass production environment. There's a reason why Ford offered the model T in any colour as long as it was black. Audi are talking about treating each car individually with a dedicated team overseeing its build. If they can maintain production volumes this can only be a benefit for quality

17 November 2016
Ford made the Model T in other colours for six years before they became all black, which was a cost-cutting exercise due to black paint being cheaper.

I don't need to put my name here, it's on the left

 

17 November 2016
Shuttling bits about the factory is about all for which autonomous cars are useful.

I don't need to put my name here, it's on the left

 

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Our Verdict

Audi A3 e-tron

Audi's first production plug-in hybrid comes in the shape of the A3 Sportback e-tron, but does it have enough spark to inspire potential buyers away from their conventional cars?

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week