Trinity factory as an answer to Tesla Grünheide: Can Diess keep Musk in check with the new plant?

It should be the big hit for Volkswagen – in the race to catch up with Tesla and also in securing as many jobs as possible in the electric age. Europe’s largest car manufacturer wants to build a complete second factory near its headquarters in Wolfsburg. If everything goes smoothly in the last few meters on the Supervisory Board, the location will become the nucleus of the completely redesigned vehicleGeneration Trinity. And that barely more than 200 kilometers away from the “Gigafactory” of the Californian rival.

But: Tesla has long been in the starting blocks for Berlin. The open declaration of war by VW in the form of a new plant comes relatively late after all sorts of PR rhetoric and half fearful, half ingratiating admiration for Elon Musk. Much is at stake for CEO Herbert Diess. Especially since the powerful works council, after the recent friction over possible job cuts, sees Trinity as a key commitment to pave the way for employees in the new car world.

The CEO doesn’t skimp on big words. “Trinity will revolutionize automobile manufacturing in Wolfsburg,” said Diess on Wednesday. The evening before, VW had let the cat out of the bag and promised a kind of “Wolfsburg two”. Now it also became clear why the control committee had to postpone its go for the five-year investment plan to December: In addition to the quarrel between the group boss and works council boss Daniela Cavallo, which made many employees feel insecure, the supervisors still need time to formally examine the project . Anything but approval would now probably trigger a full-blown mutiny among the workforce and IG Metall.

Plant on the “green field”

In all likelihood, like Tesla in Grünheide, there will be a factory on the “green field” – nearby, but expressly as a separate unit outside the main factory, on the area of ​​which a development center is already being built for a good 800 million euros (“Campus Sandkamp “). According to estimates from corporate circles, at least a similar sum is required in the Trinity assembly. Up to 250,000 cars could be finished there every year, in addition to the same number of other electric cars and combustion engines in the main plant next door.

The drawing board approach has the charm that VW can install new production technology directly. In this way, there is no traffic jam with models such as the Golf, Tiguan, Touran or Seat Tarraco – an important side effect for the targeted higher productivity. Diess wants “shorter production times and more efficient ways of working together”. In addition, employees could switch back and forth between the factories.

“A new plant is of course easier and faster to implement than a conversion on the previous site,” says the auto analyst Frank Schwope. But VW must hurry: Tesla is currently showing how it can be done in one and a half to two years. The US competitor uses a body technology in its own “Gigafactories” in which a few large parts are made of die-cast aluminum instead of many small pressed units. In addition, Tesla has fewer battery cell variants, which also saves money and reduces complexity.

Tesla construction site in Grünheide: Musk is pushing the pace. (Photo: dpa)

Musk and the schedule

In the current semiconductor crisis, Elon Musk’s company is also said to be doing very well because it operates its own chip design for control devices and other applications. The result: direct contracts with the producers instead of with intermediary auto suppliers. VW is far from there – and Cavallo accused Diess of deficits in the management of supply contracts and strategic supply. “Wolfsburg two” could provide an opportunity to remedy this.

Meanwhile, Tesla is accelerating the construction of its first electric car factory in Europe. Around two years after the announcement, the plant is almost standing. But Musk can’t get started yet. There is so far no final environmental approval from the state of Brandenburg, Tesla is building through early approvals. But the location is already one of the most important East German industrial projects. In Grünheide, 12,000 people are expected to build up to 500,000 electric cars annually.

The schedule wavered several times. The first vehicles should actually be ready by mid-2021. Now Musk is aiming for production to start in December at the latest. Following criticism from environmental associations, an online discussion was recently restarted. Conservationists fear the consequences for animals and drinking water.

It still takes

Musk recently organized a folk festival in Grünheide. When asked about water problems, he laughed and said, “Our factory uses very little water.” There is regular contact with Diess: As a surprise guest, the Tesla boss was just hooked up by video at a VW management conference. And Diess wants to visit Grünheide.

In their own company, the CEO and his brand manager Ralf Brandstätter have to closely coordinate the Trinity structure with the further development of the main plant. “The whole thing only makes sense if a subsequent use is also planned,” says Schwope. The works council also urges that at least one additional electric model be installed in the old halls north of the Mittelland Canal. At least additional volumes of the ID series would be desirable, it is said.

Because it will take some time until Trinity starts running in 2026. The first project, which VW had full-bodied as the “Tesla Fighter”, starts a little earlier in Hanover, where Porsche, Audi and Bentley are teaming up to develop a luxury-class electric sedan. Trinity is also a newly designed system – but for the middle class. The most modern electric drives, self-programmed software and technologies for fully automated driving are to be used in it.

VW brand boss Ralf Brandstätter: “The competitive pressure is increasing, not least on your own doorstep.” (Photo: Volkswagen)

Increasing competitive pressure

“The competitive pressure is increasing, not least on your own doorstep,” said Brandstätter. A production time of ten hours per car is probably feasible at Trinity – Tesla standard. “The main plant is also to be thoroughly modernized based on this model.”

The works council had criticized that Diess did not have a sufficient strategy for a higher utilization of Wolfsburg – especially in the ongoing chip supply crisis with a lot of short-time work. Now Cavallo is more conciliatory: “The Trinity factory stands for high capacity utilization and secures employment. The plans are bold and exactly right.” (dpa-AFX / gem)

Also read:

Stephan Weil: “The right approach for what’s coming up now”

VW plans new plant for Trinity

According to staff information: What Cavallo now expects from Diess

EXCLUSIVE – Porsche and Bentley want to make improvements: VW Hannover has to worry about Artemis production

For more efficiency in production: VW is said to be planning a new line in Wolfsburg

From the data center:

Model preview for ID from Volkswagen from 2020 to 2024

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Lenny Li

I started to play with tech since middle school. Smart phones, laptops and gadgets are all about my life. Besides, I am also a big fan of Star War. May the force be with you!

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