We visited recently Auto Union G.m.b.H. at their new ultra-modern factory which is situated in the ancient town of Ingalstadt, some 50 miles north of Munich. It stands as a symbol of this firm’s hard struggle since the end of the War; in 1945 Auto Union lost everything behind the Russian curtain to what is now called East Germany. However, they managed to save their name and patents, and in 1949 they began building motorcycles in Ingalstadt, and later D.K.W. Meisterklasse cars in Dusseldorf. In 1958 they designed and developed a new and potentially popular car. It was first seen as a prototype the year before, and they were sure this car would have a large market—it was named the D.K.W. Junior. Having no facilities to build the Junior, the Ingalstadt site was acquired, with its well equipped railway sidings and ample space for expansion, in July 1958. Within five months a thousand workmen used 12,000 tons of cement, 5,000 tons of steel and 40,000 tons of concrete, which built a factory 1,000 feet by 475 feet with two floors. A further six months was spent installing the machinery and other fittings necessary in a motor car factory. Thus within the space of 12 months Auto Union had built a factory to mass produce a car of their own design, and were producing it at the rate of 300 a day.
The layout of this factory is extravagantly spacious with highly automatic precision machinery, the production line proper being housed on the upper floor and the press line extending over both floors. The engine assembly line runs parallel with the giant presses, and every single part of the engine is automatically assembled. After pressing, the bodies pass through the degreasing plant, into an anti-corrosive bath, to the grinding shop, on to the spray painting plant, into the enamelling furnace, through the extremely wet polishing station, and are finally lowered on to the assembly line. One interesting feature was the dipping of the body into the primer tank. The body was held at an angle which kept the front right wing uppermost. As it was lowered the body swayed gently, and continued to sway as it was raised. This action produced a very even and smooth surface over the entire body. An example of the high pitch of automation was the welding machine which strip-welded the box-section frames of the chassis at fantastic speed and accuracy and required the employment of one machine minder only. During the manufacture of the car men would step forward to check and test the various parts; for example, the wings of the Junior are all bolted on automatically. Immediately this has been done another man steps forward and checks the tightness by hand, using a torque wrench.
The general atmosphere was clean and bright and if the work was not hard it was steady and continuous. The workers seem to disregard the portable snack-bars and cigarette machines supplied for their benefit, and no-one sat in a corner reading the daily newspaper or drinking cups of tea—they had a job to do and they were doing it. One out of every five was in a supervisory capacity, but this was not apparent to the outsider for there was no difference in dress or approach to work. [Could this be why slacking wasn’t in evidence ?—Ed.] Each man works a 45-hour week and depending on his skill will earn between 100 D.M. and 150 D.M. per week.
It takes nine hours to build one car, and 300 cars leave the factory each day. However, this is not fast enough and a duplicate factory is already under construction alongside the existing one. The plans for 1961 are to build D.K.W. Juniors as quickly as possible, and there will be no change of the model during this year. In Germany it costs 4,950 D.M., which is only £30 more expensive than the Volkswagen, but in tax-ridden Britain it is only a few pounds short of £800.—D. W. ‘I’.