From Outpost to Mainstay – Volkswagen Celebrates 70 Years at Brunswick

Brunswick, 01 September 2008 – On the occasion of its 70th anniversary, the Volkswagen Brunswick plant and the Corporate History Department of Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft have organized an exhibition on the main stages in the plant’s progress from an outpost to the current business unit together. Its business success has made Volkswagen the largest industrial employer in Brunswick.

Volkswagen has been at home in Brunswick for a very long time and there is scarcely a vehicle produced by the Volkswagen Group that does not have some components from the plant. Frank Fischer, plant manager since 2005, is pleased to report: “A highly motivated workforce and innovative products are our trademarks and have laid the foundations of success for Volkswagen in Brunswick. This is clearly shown by the exhibition.” Uwe Fritsch, Chairman of the Works Council at Brunswick, adds: “I was really impressed to see the changes that have taken place at the Brunswick plant in 70 years and how the workforce has supported their plant in good times and bad over several generations.”

In the wake of plans for the Volkswagen factory on the Mittellandkanal, Brunswick was selected as a site for an “outpost” in 1938. Specialist workers were to be trained and tools manufactured here for vehicle production at the new main plant near Fallersleben. At the beginning of World War II, the Brunswick outpost became part of the armaments industry. Forced labor was also employed here. Following liberation by the Americans in April 1945, the plant developed during the British trusteeship, which ended in October 1949, into an indispensable part of Volkswagenwerk AG, which had two plants at the time. Beetle production at Wolfsburg, which started in December 1945 and rapidly expanded, was supported by vehicle components supplied from Brunswick. During the West German economic miracle, it was the machine and tool production unit at Brunswick that provided the impetus for the expansion and rationalization of Volkswagen plants and supplied the new factories with machinery, conveyor belts and other production equipment from the early 1950s onwards. The Brunswick plant played a key role in the expansion of the company and the development of mass production at Volkswagen.

The rapidly growing workforce, which peaked at a record 7,467 employees in 1971, produced a wide range of components. One of the mainstays was the front axle, first for the Beetle and then, from 1966 onwards, also for the Transporter. The positioning of the plant as the Group axle production facility from 1977/78 was part of the strategy adopted to overcome the global recession, which had also affected Volkswagen in the mid-1970s; as a result, the workforce had been reduced to 4,925 in 1975. From 1982, plastic parts were produced on the site of the former Olympia plant outside the original premises, adding a future-oriented business area with growth potential to the production range. The comprehensive technical and organizational modernization of the machinery and tool production unit from the mid-1980s boosted its efficiency and was an essential factor in the introduction of new production technologies for the plant and the company.

In order to meet the competitive pressure faced by suppliers, the Brunswick plant was developed into a system supplier in the 1990s. Key milestones in the positive development of the plant included the establishment of its own development department from 1994, production start-up of electro-hydraulic power-assisted steering systems and the beginning of modular assembly by members of the Brunswick workforce at other plants in 1996. With more than 6,000 employees, Brunswick is now an essential part of the new Board of Management division “Components”.

The exhibition in the Altstadtrathaus on Altstadtmarkt, 38100 Brunswick, Germany, opens at 6.30 p.m. on September 2. From September 3 to October 26, 2008, the exhibition in the Altstadtrathaus museum will be open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays to Fridays and Sundays.