Quality – the core competence of the Audi brand
Uncompromising quality in every detail is a solemn obligation at Audi. This standard shapes the thinking of the entire company – the customer is the measure of all things. Audi’s quality has long been legendary; it sets standards throughout the automobile industry. And it must be achieved anew every day through hard work along the entire process chain: from Development to Production to the suppliers – everything in the name of maximum customer satisfaction. Audi’s aspiration of quality and Vorsprung durch Technik are indivisibly joined.
Audi is the leading premium brand with respect to quality as has been documented time and time again by surveys, competitions and analyses. The latest ADAC breakdown statistics for 2008 proclaim Audi the “most reliable brand” with three class victories (Audi A2, A3 and A6). Audi took first place in the latest ADAC AutoMarxX image and brand study – for the sixth time in a row. And the readers of “auto motor und sport” magazine placed three Audi models – the Audi A4, the A6 and the Q5 – on the pole position in their respective classes for the “Best Cars” awards.
The attention to the finest detail has put Audi in the position it enjoys today – at the top of the premium automobile segment, where the demands and expectations of the customers are extremely high. Audi develops quality from the very first stroke of the pen. Employees from all areas of the company are involved in the development process from the very beginning. An Audi is assembled from 8,000 to 12,000 parts; the long list of equipment allows for several million configurations, and not just for the Audi A8 premium sedan, but also in the Audi A3 or the Audi A4 model lines. Mastering this technology and complexity is an essential prerequisite for being able to offer correspondingly high-quality vehicles.
Quality made by Audi begins with the selection and use of materials. Whether natural leather, high-grade woods, aluminum inlays or new, dirt-repellent materials in the interior – Audi always sets the highest of standards so that they not only meet, but also exceed customer expectations. If corresponding technologies or manufacturing processes are not yet available, they are often developed from scratch in collaboration with suppliers. By so doing Audi continuously drives progress.
When studying individual components, particularly drivetrain and chassis components, the engineers use high-tech tools such as computer tomography devices and scanning electron microscopes. In many areas Audi has the most stringent standards and the most exacting testing of all car makers.
Another Audi strength is the quality of the surfaces, the general impression they make and the striving for perfection in the interplay of all the individual components. Master jigs are used during development as reference models for all vehicle components. It is here that the individual components are first assembled into assemblies or a complete vehicle to measure fit accuracies, tolerances and surface quality and measure them according to strict criteria. The interior master jig, for example, helps to fit decorative inlays to a maximum tolerance of two tenths of a millimeter; the highly precise alignment of joints and lines and the precise function of moving parts is constantly refined on the exterior master jig.
The press dies are designed so that the finished sheets lie within minimal tolerances of tolerances of 20 to 30 thousandths of a millimeter – a human hair is twice that thick.
The total car experience of perfection conveyed by every Audi is the result of this painstakingly detailed work. Specialists take care of the perfect level of operating forces and sounds; another team hunts down and eliminates intrusive noises. In addition to the long-term tests conducted as part of Technical Development, Quality Assurance also conducts a comprehensive program of various customer-relevant road tests on public streets. These tests, often covering millions of kilometers, ensure that the quality of the individual components remains up to standard over the long term and that operation is assured even under extreme real-world conditions. And because customer satisfaction is also a question of low running costs, Audi develops solutions enabling low service and repair costs as well as a favorable insurance classification as early as the development phase.
At Audi, quality is top priority. Quality Assurance with its 2,000 employees is not attached organizationally to the respective divisions and plants as is the case at the competition, but rather acts as a neutral, central unit within the company. It is assigned directly to the Chairman of the Board Management. Werner Zimmermann, the Head of Quality Assurance, reports directly to Rupert Stadler and attends every meeting of the Board of Management, where once a week he reports about his department and the current quality status of Audi vehicles. The highest decision-making body at Quality Assurance, the Quality Circle, is not only made up of high-ranking experts, it also includes Members of the Board of Management at all times.
This strong position ensures that Quality Assurance is able to fulfill its function as the customer’s representative at the company without restriction. It enjoys significant freedom of action and can also quickly make decisions involving a large budget and assume responsibility for their implementation. Quality Assurance provides many monitoring and consulting functions during Development and Testing, and communicates its requirements very early during the product development process. The final total vehicle approval for series production by Quality Assurance – something else unheard of at the competition – is the conclusion of each project. It goes without saying that Quality Assurance continues to perform its control function during series production through long-term quality in the hands of the customer – yet another unique feature within the automobile industry.
Quality awareness is a strength of all Audi employees, from Member of the Board of Management to assembly line worker. Each of them sees complaints not as annoyances, but as opportunities. An identified problem area is a recognized task, an opportunity to exceed standards set for oneself and to set the bar higher and higher. Solutions and improvements can be quickly identified using numerous high-tech tools such as computer tomography or scanning electron microscopes.
This high level of effort is the basis for the holistic approach to quality at Audi, and Audi’s uncompromising quality would not be possible without this foundation. The dedication and enthusiasm that drives the employees in their detailed daily work is reflected in every Audi product. It is this philosophy that secures Audi’s top spot over its competitors.
Werner Zimmermann, Head of Quality Assurance
“Quality is about passion and striving for perfection,” says Werner Zimmermann. As Head of Quality Assurance, the 56-year-old engineer is responsible for the high standards that apply across the entire process chain at Audi, from development through production to the suppliers and customers.
Werner Zimmermann, born in the Upper Bavarian town of Bad Tölz, joined Audi in 1976 immediately after completing his degree in automotive engineering. Since 1992 he has headed various departments within Quality Assurance, where his responsibilities have included the Neckarsulm and Ingolstadt plants. He assumed his current position as Head of Quality Assurance in July 2000; since 2007 he has also been the spokesman of the Audi Corporate Development Circle, which focuses on strategic issues.
Uncompromising quality is one of the Audi brand’s core values, and nobody knows this better than Werner Zimmermann. “The customer experiences the quality of our cars with all his senses – quality is what you can see, hear and feel,” says the Head of Quality Assurance. “The customer is the benchmark by which our work is judged. We strive for quality even in those areas where the customer does not directly witness it. It is only through these highest quality standards that the incomparable Audi feeling becomes possible – top-class reliability combined with an overall impression of comfort, sportiness, precision and sophistication.”
Quality is not an abstract idea at Audi; it is a universal principle, a powerful element of corporate culture for all of its 57,000 employees worldwide. As Werner Zimmermann states: “The quest for perfection is deeply ingrained in the Audi team. Audi quality means raising the bar higher and higher – that’s what makes Audi stand out. Quality doesn’t just happen by itself; it has to be worked for day after day.”
Werner Zimmermann, Head of Quality Assurance at AUDI AG:
“The customer experiences quality with all his senses on every journey.”
“Quality is the daily quest to combat shortcomings.”
“Becoming the most reliable brand in the ADAC breakdown statistics means working hard every day.”
“Saving money on quality always costs the most in ultimate terms.”