Volkswagen Taos harnesses North American Region engineering expertise for chassis development
The Volkswagen Taos entry-compact SUV, which slots into the brand’s burgeoning SUV portfolio below the Tiguan and ID.4 EV models, is the latest product to be built on the company’s versatile modular transverse toolkit, or MQB. It has also been tuned explicitly for regional markets by engineers within the North American Region.
Volkswagen has been building up its engineering expertise in the region, both in the U.S. and in Mexico. Since 2016, the NAR has been given increasing responsibility for the products sold in Mexico, Canada and the U.S., tailoring vehicles to market requirements, which are often quite different to needs in other parts of the world, such as Europe.
From the Engineering and Planning Center in Chattanooga, TN, and the Innovation and Engineering Center California in Belmont, CA, to the NAR Engineering Workbench in Puebla, Mexico, Volkswagen now has approximately 1,500 engineers in the region in seven facilities. Their remit includes advanced user interface research, AI, autonomous driving, emissions testing, vehicle design, battery research, powertrain calibration, and chassis setup.
“I am very pleased that we have been building up this capability for the NAR,” said Dr. Wolfgang Demmelbauer-Ebner, Executive Vice-President and Chief Engineering Officer, Volkswagen North American Region. “It is hugely important to have expertise in the region to tailor our vehicles to the wants and needs of consumers, as they vary dramatically in this region compared with other parts of the world.”
When it came to the Taos chassis tuning, the Chassis Development team of 55 engineers from Puebla worked hand-in-hand with engineers from Germany and the U.S. to hone the ride and handling balance for this market. The Taos uses a strut-type front suspension but has different rear suspension setups for the all-wheel- and front-wheel-drive models: AWD models have a multilink layout while FWD versions get a torsion beam.
The road conditions in the U.S., Canada and Mexico are a massive challenge for chassis engineers. Just in the U.S., roads vary from the smooth blacktop of southern states to surfaces rippled by earthquakes in California to Midwest roads benighted by the ravages of freeze-thaw conditions. Add in the dirt roads found in most U.S. states, and striking a compromise between ride and handling becomes a serious task.
“To get to a balanced chassis for these markets takes a huge amount of work,” says Gerold Bremer, Director, Technical Development, Volkswagen de México. “For the front-wheel-drive Taos, we went through 77 iterations of the various chassis components—springs, dampers, anti-roll bars, suspension components, bushings, and so on—to get the perfect balance between a supple ride, which compact SUV buyers value, and the fun-to-drive nature of a Volkswagen.”
The lively 1.5-litre turbocharged and direct-injection EA211 engine makes 158 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, and a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission is standard. Thanks to sophisticated technology, which includes variable geometry turbocharging, the Taos is expected to deliver excellent fuel economy.
The Taos is expected to go on sale in June. The vehicle is positioned in the largest U.S. vehicle segment, the compact SUV market, where 4 million cars were sold in 2019—around 24 percent of the market.
Volkswagen Chattanooga marks the 10th anniversary of the first vehicle assembled
Volkswagen is also celebrating the 10th anniversary of the first customer vehicle to roll off the assembly line at its Chattanooga, Tennessee assembly plant. On April 18, 2011, a Passat SEL in Night Blue Metallic equipped with a 2.5-liter engine, automatic transmission, leather interior and 18-inch wheels became the first customer vehicle to be assembled in Chattanooga.
“Our Chattanooga family began with the birth of our Passat,” said Dean Parker, head of manufacturing at Volkswagen Chattanooga. “We all cheered as the first one drove off the line because we knew it was only the beginning. The successful launch of the Passat was greatly due to the hard work and dedication of this Chattanooga team, and it opened the doors for future vehicles like our Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport. Today, more than one million vehicles later, and as we are preparing to launch Volkswagen’s first all–electric SUV, we take a moment to appreciate our success, as it all started with our Passat.”
The start of operations at the Plant capped two years of work to transform an industrial brownfield site outside Chattanooga into the world’s first LEED-Platinum certified automotive manufacturing facility. Since then, Volkswagen Chattanooga has grown to employ about 3,800 people directly and assembled more than 1 million vehicles, while supporting thousands of other jobs in the region. More than 900 workers who helped assemble the Passat and were working at the plant when the first Passat left the line are still working there a decade later.
The Chattanooga plant remains among the most environmentally friendly automotive sites in the United States, with a rainwater-recycling system and a 33-acre solar park on site that provides a significant portion of the plant’s power needs. Since the first Passat rolled off the assembly line, Chattanooga-assembled vehicles have been exported to Canada, Mexico, Russia, South Korea, and the Middle East.
The Chattanooga plant currently assembles the Volkswagen Atlas, Atlas Cross Sport and Passat, and it will also be Volkswagen’s North American base for assembling electric vehicles starting in 2022 with the ID.4 electric SUV.