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VW's Auto City Runs on RFID

As many as 700 customers daily pick up their new cars at Volkswagen's theme park, where workers use RFID to ready each vehicle and match it up with the right owner.
By Rhea Wessel
Nov 07, 2005Volkswagen Group builds more than 5 million vehicles annually at production sites around the world, the majority of which are distributed through dealerships. Each year, however, an average of 130,000 cars made for the European market are picked up by auto enthusiasts, or by consumers seeking to save about €450 on delivery costs.

Each day, as many as 700 buyers come to Wolfsburg, Germany, to pick up their vehicles at Volkswagen's Autostadt (Auto City) theme park, complete with exhibits about technology, the environment, automobiles and mobility.

Volkswagen's Autostadt in Wolfsburg, Germany, where customers can pick up their new Golfs and other VW models.

Consequently, getting the right car to its proper owner at the designated appointment time is a mammoth task. Complicating matters, each car has a different set of predelivery tasks that must be performed. Some must be de-waxed to remove the layer of wax that protects the paint job and keeps a new car looking new, while others must be tanked up with gasoline. Still others must be equipped with a mobile phone or a freebie umbrella. To get the job done in a cost-effective manner, VW turned to radio frequency identification.

In 2000, Volkswagen Group, which owns the Volkswagen, Audi, SEAT, Lamborghini, Škoda, Bentley and Bugatti brands, began allowing select car pickups directly at its Wolfsburg factory, where the Volkswagen Golf and other VW models are produced. The company had designed and built the Autostadt to mark the World Expo held in nearby Hanover the same year, and pickups were made possible through the facilities of the Auto City.

The Autostadt, which has become Germany's second most-visited theme park behind Europa Park, offers visitors interactive exhibits, tours, test-drives, driver training, films and eateries. The park even has miniature VW Beetles that children ages 5 to 11 can drive on a specially designed course with its own traffic lights and signs. Before the Autostadt was built, only some 100 to 150 buyers, such as employees, picked up their vehicles on-site each day. Predelivery tasks were tracked with pen and paper as drivers moved vehicles to various stations where these tasks were carried out.

To coincide with the opening of the Autostadt and the introduction of the pickup service, Volkswagen implemented a system using active RFID tags to track more than 10,000 vehicles (mostly Volkswagen models) stored in adjacent holding lots. The goal is to make sure each automobile goes through its prescribed predelivery tasks and quality controls in a timely fashion. Implemented in 2000, the system has been expanded steadily ever since, according to Ralf Michael, the project manager for Identec Solutions, which provided the RFID system. Within one year, according to Identec, Volkswagen recouped the cost of its RFID investment via labor savings and higher productivity.

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