Audi traces its history back to 1899 when August Horch established a brand, Horch, to compete with Benz and Mercedes. Horch had a dispute with his business partners and he left the company. Since he no longer owned the rights to his own name, he started a new company, naming it “Audi,” Latin for horch or “hark.”
In 1932, Audi joined forces with three other companies to form Auto Union. The original four companies of Auto Union are represented by the overlapping rings of the Audi logo.
Just 120 of the Audi factory’s best employees qualify to work on the prestigious R8 assembly line. More than half of R8 workers are over 40. It is said that the easiest way to spot them is to look for the gray hair. The factory calls them “silverliners.”
On an average day, the Audi factory in Neckarsulm, Germany, turns out just 20 R8s.
It takes eight days or 70 hours of time on the assembly line to transform the R8 from raw aluminium to one of the fastest cars on the road.
The R8 has an all-aluminium body, slashing the frame weight to just 209 kilograms – less than half the weight of a steel frame.
Each R8 requires over 5,000 different parts, fitted mostly by hand.
The R8’s V-10 engine rockets to 96 kilometres per hour in just 3.8 seconds – making it one of the fastest cars on the road.
The racing R8 has won the Lemans five out of six starts.
Producers for the movie, Ironman, cast the R8 as the ideal sports car for its protagonist, high-tech billionaire, Tony Stark. The R8 space frame was so well-built, it changed the ending of the film. The stunt directors originally planned to collide the R8 with Ironman’s adversary, and flip it over. But it wouldn’t flip. The filmmakers tried a different stunt, but the Audi R8 still prevailed.
MEGA FACTORIES: LAMBORGHINI
Lamborghinis are rare sights anywhere in the world except near the village of Sant’Agata Bolognese – about 32 kilometres north of Bologna. This rural farming community is home to Automobili Lamborghini, S.p.A., the factory that has crafted these legendary sports cars since 1963.
Lamborghini produced a record 2,430 vehicles in 2008. Almost 1800 were the company’s best-selling car, the Gallardo, and just over 630 of them were the company’s flagship model, the Murcielago.
The Murcielago blasts from 0 to 100 kilometres per hour in 3.4 seconds and reach a top speed of 340 kilometres per hour.
Lamborghini has topped the Murcielago with a new version, the Murcielago SV. SV stands for “Super Veloce,” meaning “super fast.” The Murcielago SV sells for 300,000 euros.
The Murcielago SV is hand crafted by about 130 people. Except for the steel roof and doors, the entire body of the Mucielago SV is made of carbon fibre.
In the mid-1950s, Ferruccio Lamborghini built an industrial empire by manufacturing farm tractors. With his wealth, Lamborghini bought a Ferrari but felt that it needed too many repairs. He had his tractor mechanic look at the problem and discovered his Ferrari used the same clutch as his tractor. Lamborghini decided to design a sports car that would out-do Ferrari.
Ferruccio Lamborghini chose the bull logo for Lamborghini because his astrological sign was Taurus. The factory also names many of its cars after fighting bulls, including the Miura, Diablo, Gallardo and the Murcielago.
Lamborghini test drivers have a saying, “Every Lamborghini comes with two problems: the speed limit and the police.” The factory actually provides two Lamborghini Gallardos to the Italian state police who use the sports car’s tiny luggage compartment for delivering organ transplants to needy patients.
MEGA FACTORIES: IKEA
IKEA began in Smaland, Sweden. In 1943, at the age of 17, Ingvar Kamprad sold matchboxes, pens and small furniture. He named the company “IKEA” an acronym for his first and last name and the farm and village where he spent his childhood. He made deliveries with his bicycle and later joined forces with the local milk truck. His efficient approach kept prices affordable.
Over 500 million customers visit an IKEA each year, making it the world’s largest furniture provider.
IKEA has almost 300 stores in 36 countries and 42 distribution centres in 18 countries and over 1000 suppliers.
It takes five factories across Europe to manufacture IKEA’s 10,000 item product line.
IKEA delivers over 250 million cubic metres of products each year.
Zbaszynek, Poland is home to the company’s largest wood production plant. Associates create 30 million tables, desks and wardrobes each year.
In nearby, Nowe Skalmierzyce, COM 40, an IKEA Supplier, builds 3,000 upholstered pieces of furniture daily, including 900 Ektorp sofas.
IKEA has sold over 40 million Billy Bookcases in the last three decades. Every week, IKEA’s automated manufacturing line creates 130,000 Billy bookshelves. Robots produce 10,000 bookcases daily.
MEGA FACTORIES: SUPER SUBWAY
The subway has been a part of the New York City landscape for over 100 years. On October 27, 1904, the first underground train left the City Hall station.
Today, over five million people ride the NYC subway every day. That’s almost 2 billion passengers a year.
The subway’s current route extends to over 1,300 kilometres, has 468 stations and over 6,000 cars.
Each car can carry almost 250 passengers at speeds of almost 90 kilometres per hour.
The trains weigh as much as 400 tons run along the tracks 24 hours a day.
Each car begins in Brazil where workers weld its body, a 23-step process done almost entirely by hand. The roof alone requires 3,500 spot welds.
Then workers in Hornell, New York assemble the subway car – also mostly by hand.
Each car takes almost 90 days to build. The factory in New York works on two subway cars per day with almost 800 employees working two shifts.
Each car has over 11,000 parts and 4,000 parts are typically fitted in a single day.
An ingenious African-American inventor, Granville Woods, pioneered a power distribution system that is still used by the New York Subway and around the world. Most people know it as “the third rail,” where electricity is transmitted to the train by a sliding “shoe” that maintains contact with an electrified rail.
The tracks of the New York City subway are made from 12 metre lengths of carbon steel, just six centimetres wide.
“Geometry trains” ride the rails non-stop taking laser-guided measurements of the tracks. Any track more than two centimetres out of alignment, requires a repair.
MEGA FACTORIES: ROLLS-ROYCE
In 1906, Rolls-Royce introduced its first car, the Silver Ghost. After a record-breaking 24,000 kilometres non-stop endurance run, it earned the reputation as the best car in the world. Just over 7,000 Silver Ghosts were built.
Approximately 65 percent of all Rolls-Royce motorcars ever built are still on the road today.
Rolls-Royce was acquired by the British Conglomerate Vickers in 1980 and then purchased by BMW in 1998. BMW built a new, dedicated Rolls-Royce factory in Goodwood, England. The plant itself was designed to be energy efficient, eco-friendly and benefit manufacturing at the same time.
The Phantom was introduced in 2003 and is the first incarnation of the new generation of Rolls-Royce motorcars. It comes in 44,000 colours.
Every Rolls-Royce Phantom begins in Unterhallerau, Germany as over 200 sections of extruded aluminium and 300 alloy parts that are welded together by hand. The Phantom has the largest all-aluminium spaceframe car chassis ever made. In order to prevent the welding heat from distorting the roof, a team of two metal workers must weld both sides of the roof in complete unison. This 40-centimetre weld is the one of the longest continual aluminium welds in the auto industry.
It takes at least two months to construct each Phantom.
Every Rolls-Royce Phantom comes with Teflon-coated, hide-away umbrellas that are built into the doors and pop out with the touch of a button.
The Phantom has a mammoth V-12 capable of hauling its two-and-a-half tons from 0 to 100 kilometres per hour in just 5.9 seconds. The Phantom’s low end torque allows it to pull away from a stop in 2nd gear, adding to a feeling of effortless acceleration, or “wafting” as Rolls-Royce calls it.
The iconic hood ornament is called, “The Spirit of Ecstasy” and was commissioned in 1911 and sculpted by celebrated artist, Charles Sykes. It has graced every Rolls-Royce since then. Today, the Spirit of Ecstasy is mounted on a mechanism that retracts the ornament into the grille by remote control or automatically in the event of a collision.
A phantom interior requires an average of 75 square metres or 18 hides of natural grain leather. It takes the leather shop 17 days to complete a full-upholstered interior.
The “coach line” is a contrasting pinstripe along the shoulder of the car. There are no robots or machines used to paint the coach line on a Rolls-Royce. Each coach line is painted freehand by painter, Mark Court. It takes him three hours to paint each coach line.
MEGA FACTORIES: PORSCHE
Ferdinand Porsche was a self-taught automotive designer and engineer. In 1900, at the age of 25, he designed the first hybrid gasoline-electric car for an Austrian company. Then in the ‘30s he sold the German government on his dream of a small, simple car that would be affordable for the masses. That car became the Volkswagen Beetle.
Post-war shortages forced Porsche to use components from the Volkswagen Beetle – the rear-mounted, air-cooled four-cylinder engine, the gear box and the suspension – to realize his next car. The car that emerged in 1948 was the Porsche 356. More than 75,000 were made over the course of 15 years.
Since 1964, every 911 ever built has been made at Porsche’s factory in Stuttgart, Germany.
The factory produces around 40 Boxters, about 110 Porsche 911s and approximately 500 engines daily.
Porsche builds 16 versions of the Porsche 911, including the 911 GT3 which delivers 435 horsepower.
Each 911 has around 5,000 welds.
Over 4 decades, the design of the 911 has been updated just five times – resulting in six generations.
The most popular colours for a Porsche are black, white and red, but Porsche can custom paint a car any colour (for a fee).
The plant makes more than 20 different versions of its 6-cylinder engine ranging from 255 to 535 horsepower.