We may love Audi's A4 as it stands, but executives within the automaker have promised to place the sedan on a diet, allowing it to potentially shed as much as 330 pounds.
Heinrich Timm (pictured), Audi’s Head of Aluminum and Lightweight Design Center says the company will employ advanced materials and manufacturing techniques to reduce the overall mass of its most popular sedan and cites the many benefits of the cuts, including, but not limited to, increased fuel efficiency and dynamic performance as well as reduced operating costs (related to raw materials).
The rationale sounds good, but can it be done? Timm would know. Since 1982 he has been the pioneering force behind the development of several high tech manufacturing processes that Audi now uses across its range of vehicles, most notably, for the aluminum space frames found in the A8 and R8. Timm and his team have been working to reverse what he calls the “weight spiral” that has occurred in the C-segment over the last several decades. His research has shows that C-segment vehicles (Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, etc) have gained roughly ten percent in weight with each generation. With the last model change over in 2009, Timm and his team accomplished an impressive feat; they managed to substantially increase the exterior size (over five inches longer and two inches wider), interior volume and performance of the B8-generation A4 while making the body weigh slightly less than the B7 model. For the B9 A4, due out in 2015, Timm believes his team can subtract 150 kg, which is just over 330 pounds.
How? “Use the right material, in the lowest amount, in the right place,” says Timm. Which means advanced manufacturing techniques using high strength steel will likely be the answer. The current A4 uses 11 different types of steel and though Timm and his team are on the forefront of aluminum and composite technology, the A4 is Audi’s highest volume vehicle and needs to meet specific cost targets.