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coveR STORY indian polo roll out

THE MAKING OF

We go around the massive VW factory and capture the steps of words Sarmad kadiri

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the indian Polo

perfection taken to create this hot hatch in twenty-six frames photography Sanjay Raikar

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coveR STORY indian polo roll out CHAKAN PLANT We are about to do what no other Indian automobile magazine has thought of doing and that too in unmatchable style. CAR India decided to get behind the wheel of the made in India Polo, much before any other motoring journalist got to touch it. To raise the bar, we also got none other than the President and Managing Director of VW India, Mr. Joerg Mueller to chauffeur us around. Volkswagen are rather bullish about their future plans for India and investing Euro 320 million in just one plant in the country is proof enough. The company acquired 230 hectares of land in Chakan, Pune, where the German major has built a state-of-the-art automobile factory. This move not only brought along immense business opportunities for the component suppliers, but also resulted in an infrastructure boom around the city. With VW’s entry, the government understood the potential of automobile factories and developed wider roads, train tracks and better power resources. In fact, the Shiroli Chandus village, roughly 6km north of Chakan, has been identified as a probable site for the Pune international airport. Pune has also started a direct international flight to Germany. Thanks to the VW factory, thousands of families in and around the plant now have access to improved facilities, good schools for their kids, NGOs supported by VW and most importantly, stable livelihood for their loved ones. This human side of such seemingly mechanical business institutions are hardly talked about, especially in auto magazines where we are busy analyzing their products.

1 1. LETS ROLL: Rolls of sheet metal waiting to begin the journey to become a Polo 2. LIFE OF THE POLO BEGINS: The sheets being fed into the sheering machine press 3. GIVING SHAPE TO POLO: The press shop operator busy at work 4. BIT BY BIT: Accurate finished parts of the car roll out 5. Demo body shell for measurements: Pressing and moulding body parts require absolute precision 6. STOCKED: Gestamp ensures that all the dimensions of the body parts are absolutely accurate

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VW outsources the press shop production to GESTAMP who perform this challenging job with great precision 80

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7. From the Gestamp shed, the body parts reach the VW assembly line in the same premises, ready for the welding line 8. HANDLE WITH CARE: Although these body parts are not fragile, the precision is of utmost importance 9. BOND WELL: Start of the welding line where pieces of the body parts are being welded together 10. An engineer supervises the assembly of the underbody 11. The complete underbody being transported to the next welding station 12. Putting the front and rear underbody together 13. SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME: Piece by piece, the frame of the Polo takes shape

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The families of employees are an integral part of the Volkswagen Group. So, the firm celebrated the formal rollout of its first locally manufactured Polo from the Chakan plant. The event was also attended by several dignitaries including the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Mr. Ashok Chavan. The VW MD feels, “This event was the ideal way to bring together each individual’s personal sphere with their day-today working environment and the product they help to create.” The timeframe leading up to the official start of production is also unusual. Just two years ago, the first construction work began on this site. The concrete structures were quickly cast and the first halls were rapidly constructed. In March 2009, exactly nine months earlier than originally planned, VW officially opened the plant. A month later, they started pre-series production of the Polo. In a typical German way of functioning, VW has put in a great deal of effort to achieve the same level of quality that is the standard

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coveR STORY indian polo roll out in every Volkswagen plant throughout the world. It was no easy task to train over 1000 employees and getting accustomed to our diverse culture and traditions. We can imagine the several hundred suppliers going through a tough time to produce and finally satisfy the Germans with car components of top quality. But now that they have achieved the international standards, the suppliers have simultaneously opened the gates of opportunity to the entire Volkswagen Group globally. So, why are we tom-toming this Wolfsburg based firm anyway? The answer is simpler than you think. This automobile giant also owns luxury car marques like Audi, Bentley and the popular Skoda brand among others and has now taken over Porsche. More recently it bought a 19.9 percent stake in Suzuki for an astounding $2.5 billion, making Volkswagen one of the largest car manufacturer under the sun. In India, the biggie has plans to mass produce two car models. The first will be a sedan based on the Polo and the other could be a Rs 2.5 lakh small car in alliance with Suzuki which will be the cheapest car in the VW stable. For India, these ambitious plans translate into opportunities galore. THE HOT HATCH So, why should we get excited about a car designed almost half a dozen countries away? How does the winner of the European Car of the Year sound? This hot hatch managed to score over thirty-three eligible cars including the magnificent Mercedes Benz E-class, the futuristic Toyota

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20 14. Monitor displaying the welding of the roof. Robotic welding makes sure that seam welding is absolutely seamless 15. The doors are closely scrutinised by a trained professional after the welding process 16. PAINT ME RED: The body shell going to the paint shop for multiple coats of paint 17. After the paint, the doors and bonnet are removed from the body shell so that the panels, winding system etc. can be installed 18. In another line, the under chassis is being prepared and insulated 19. The engine, suspension and brakes coming on to the under chassis 20. The overhead roll out from the paint shop making its way to the mechanical side of the assembly line 21. En route the assembly line, where the dashboard, lights and other fittings are mounted in

After the paint, the doors and bonnet are removed from the body shell so that the panels, winding system etc. can be installed 84

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coveR STORY indian polo roll out iQ and the amazing Opel Astra that were also nominated for the prestigious award. But how will it perform given the road conditions in our country? Clearing our doubts, Dr. John Chacko - Managing Director Technical, Volkswagen India said, “We already sell cars that are used in adverse conditions. Our cars in India are test driven for 50,000km to 100,000km to check the durability of the car under the same testing condition that we use internationally as we cannot compromise in quality and safety.” He adds that special attention has been given to minimize body rattle after use so that VW buyers can fetch a good resale value for their Polo. The German automaker has made no changes on the surface of the Polo, but has managed to incorporate almost 50 percent Indian components in the car. Currently, the engine of the car is imported from Europe, but the firm is working towards local assembly simultaneously. After the President and MD of VW India, Mr. Joerg Mueller drove us around the outskirts of Pune; he explained every detail of the car, touching its contours with affection, almost like an artist while talking about his handcrafted sculpture. While running his fingers on the perfectly maintained panel gaps he said, “To achieve this fit and finish one has to be in love with the product. Quality for us is a constant process.” This smallest member of VW in India has a neat exterior design and impeccable execution of the cabin. The Polo has managed to attain a level of perceived quality which is unprecedented in this segment. We reckon the Polo will raise the bar for all small cars being sold in India and also for the models that are yet to come. Internationally, the Polo is available in various engine options ranging from 1.2 to 1.6-litre mills. Volkswagen will first introduce the petrol version in India. And with the current downsizing trend, these features will become an important point for potential customers worldwide. The cabin room, the engine performance, the smooth ride and the decent boot space further endorse our affirmation.

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22. The body shell and under chassis are about to be put together 23. Electrical and mechanical parts get fitted onto the shell to complete the car 24. Checking the car as the Polo edges towards completion 25. UNDER THE SCANNER: The final checking just before the roll out 26. (L-R) President and MD VW India, Mr. Joerg Mueller and Dr. John Chacko - MD Technical, VW India proudly displaying the complete Polo outside their Chakan factory, Pune

CAR India Editor, Aspi Bhathena on the rear seat with VW India, President and MD, Mr. Mueller at the steering wheel and Dr. Chacko, MD Technical, VW India on the navigator’s seat


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coveR STORY indian polo roll out

Chat with Dr. John Chacko Managing Director Technical, Volkswagen India How different will the Indian Polo be from the models available elsewhere in the world? The supplier base is very flexible in India and needs a lot of guidance to meet our requirements. It is going to be quite an uphill task to maintain what we have achieved in the last six months. With the help of our suppliers, we have managed to create a car from the point of durability. It will stand up to any of the challenges that a normal Polo anywhere in the world would. How much is the car’s Indian content? We say it is 50 percent, which is a lot to start with. Naturally, things like these are a matter of definition. When will it become 100 percent made in India? That is something that never happens. You’ll find that even European and other countries and regions are very competitive, especially if they have large numbers behind them. But there is a route plan in any case to get up to 75 percent. The Polo will come with a completely imported engine. Have you thought about getting it localized? We have thought about it a lot and like you know, there are some steps in getting an engine localized. The first step is to get it assembled here and we are taking small steps in this direction in any case. After that, it is like a ball that starts rolling and it is on our agenda to have more local content. There are some parts that are exported for the engine from this region. Sophisticated stuff, but nobody notices.

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Chat with President and MD of VW India Mr. Joerg Mueller Here’s what Mr. Mueller had to say about building a world car in India, “We have to define very clearly our dimensional demands and quality demands and we do not accept any compromise. Nothing. The quality we are producing is the same quality that is produced anywhere else in the world. Some suppliers have begun to supply to other parts of the world and this is a new trend. Like we had told our suppliers in the beginning that if you supply to us here in India, then a huge door will open to the Volkswagen Group worldwide. When we sit in the car and drive around, you will see a lot of the parts are localized and you won’t see the difference. And this is what makes it so successful here.” To make the Polo more suitable for our subcontinent, VW had to pay extra attention to the suspension as road clearance is very important. But the most important part was the car’s horns, admits Mr. Mueller with a smile on his face. He reveals that according to a study, an average Indian customer uses the horns roughly around 9000 times a month! We also have a peculiar habit when it comes to the car’s air-conditioner. According to him, Indian customers want to have the cold breeze from the A/C immediately on their face as compared to Europe where they prefer a more gradual process. Since we have difficult road conditions, the seats had to be more comfortable. In India, we use the rear seats more often and so VW paid extra attention to make it more suitable. Special attention has been given to minimize body rattle after use so that the car can fetch a good resale value in the future. The Polo will be launched in January 2010, and will be available in VW showrooms around March-April. The car is sold in saloon, coupé and estate variants internationally. Of course, the Polo saloon and the Polo hatch with a diesel heart are in the pipeline for India.


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Making of POLO_Jan10