Professor, Dr. Martin Winterkorn, Chairman and Member of the Board of Directors of Audi-AG, Responsible for Technical Development, Member of the Board of Management of Volkswagen Group.
Born in 1947 in Leonberg (Germany). In 1973 he graduated from the University of Stuttgart, in 1977 he defended his thesis with a degree in metal science at the Max Planck Institute. He started his career at Robert Bosch, responsible for the development of compressors for refrigerators. At Audi since 1981. In 1993, he headed the quality assurance group Volkswagen AG, and since 2000 he has been a member of the board of directors of the Volkswagen group responsible for technical development. In 2002, he was appointed Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Audi Group (includes the brands Audi, SEAT and Lamborghini). Honorary Professor of the Budapest University of Technology and Economics and the Dresden University of Technology.
- First of all, let me congratulate you on your success: Audi-A6 became the owner of the title “World Car 2005”. We at the editorial office are going to buy it and have already discussed this with the head of Audi in Russia, Mr. Akhmedov. But I was slightly disappointed: I could not get the Quattro version with a DSG gearbox and 3.2 liter FSI engine.
- Yes, the A6 with a 3.2 liter FSI engine is well suited for Russia. But for such machines, DSG * boxes are not yet made.
- I have been in love with this new product since I traveled by car with a DSG box.
- You know, three years ago I was engaged in Wolfsburg launching this box in a series. DSGs are currently equipped with transverse engines. And at Audi, with the exception of A2, A3 and TT, the motors are located longitudinally. They need a new development - we are doing it now.
- Maybe the editors do not buy the A6, but wait for the new Q7 all-terrain vehicle? I heard that you are going to release it closer to Russia - in Slovakia, where the production of components has already been established. When will this and other new products appear in Russia?
- The Audi Q7 crossover is waiting for next year. The concept, which we showed in many countries, gathered a lot of people who wanted to buy a similar car. A large seven-seater car has absorbed the features of a sports and off-road. Q7 will be more expensive than the Tuareg.
Our task is to expand the already mastered segments. For example, the TT model exists in versions of the coupe, roadster. We are planning something similar in other classes. The goal - at the cost of optimal investment to achieve a wider palette. Last year in Geneva we showed the Nuvolari coupe; this year in Detroit we showed the Allroad. Audi has a lot of ideas - most of them will be implemented.
- And how do you like the idea of BMW to assemble cars in Russia?
“We should think about that too.” And we will act within the framework of the general project of the Volkswagen concern. Audi did not pay enough attention to the Russian market - now we will correct it, since the Russian market has shown itself to be capacious and promising.
- Allow a question from the theory. The head of BMW Helmut Panke in an interview with "Driving" argued the benefits of rear-wheel drive. Chef Subaru Kyoji Takenaka campaigned for permanent four-wheel drive. What is your opinion as an engineer on this matter?
- “Audi” adheres to the “quattro” scheme, and the best, in my opinion, car is Audi-RS4. Front-wheel drive is sufficient for normal road conditions. For wet, slippery all-wheel drive is needed.
- I heard a lot about unified platforms in the Volkswagen concern and all hoped that they would help to reduce the price of cars offered by different companies, but cars only become more expensive. Will the idea of common platforms ever work?
- The policy of unified platforms would lead to lower prices if customers did not increase their desires. Say, in a simple configuration, two airbags - the driver and front passenger. But the client wants more. He also needed not just a simple, but a multi-link suspension, an electromechanical power steering with variable effort. The client prefers an engine with increased power and sees the benefits of other technical solutions. The customer’s desires increase - answering them, the car rises in price.
- Even the smallest Audi is literally packed with high-tech. How much sophisticated technology does an ordinary person need, is there a limit?
- We have practically reached the limit of human abilities regarding the perception of information. Therefore, we try to adhere to the principle of "one function - one button." This is clearly demonstrated by the new models A6 and A8. For example, to control the seat heating, we do not use switches and temperature regulators separately - these two functions are combined. We try to make it easier for the client to use technical achievements.
- What innovations do you consider redundant?
- Some electronic functions, but not many. In particular, separate engine management systems. Others we are strictly prescribed by the legislative framework on safety, emissions into the atmosphere. By the way, there are noticeable differences between Europe, America and China.
- In the upper segment, everything is fine with you. Questions arise on the topic "My first car." Let's say the Japanese prepare their customers for the chain from Corolla to Lexus or from Almera to Infinity. How will you educate your future customers if you have left the familiar niche of cars for a rural teacher?
- Take, for example, Audi A3 - this is an affordable car, solid. In terms of quality indicators, it corresponds to the fact that other brands are found only in the higher segments. As for more mundane cars, the concern has a subsidiary brand SEAT: its Ibiza or Leon may well be the first for the owner.
- At the exhibitions, as I noticed, Audi does not show cars with a hybrid power plant. The head of Nissan Carlos Ghosn considers hybrids to be a swindle. But the Chinese are preparing legislation, following which hybrids will be bought in hundreds of thousands. The sky over Moscow is also gray from exhaust fumes. If only 5% of Chinese people drive, even Germany may suffer. You, the leaders in the field of engine building, what do you think about this?
- From an economic point of view, the existence of hybrids is still difficult to justify. They are overweight; there is practically no effect on suburban roads. Some superiority of the hybrid is noticeable only on city streets. Therefore, if the customer intends to use the machine exclusively within the city, then he may think about the appropriateness of its acquisition. We are also working on hybrids, but production cars will only appear if customers want it.
- What topic, in addition to hybrids, do you, as an engineer, consider decisive for the car?
- The main tasks of the coming years are to, firstly, conquer electronics and, secondly, to reduce weight. Solving these problems will help reduce emissions and fuel consumption. Therefore, special attention will be paid to new materials, in particular titanium. I know about the huge deposits of titanium ores in Russia - this is a wonderful raw material. The metal is durable, lightweight.
- At the Quattro anniversary, you looked organically against the backdrop of rally cars. It is a pity that Audi has left the world rally championship.
- This type of competition has become very dangerous. There are many spectators on the roads - we had several accidents, after which we decided not to participate. I don’t want Audi cars to be associated with misfortunes.
- In addition to the DTM series, do you have something in your sports plans?
- Le Mans, where we can show both promising equipment and its capabilities. Technologies that we test in sports, then apply in production cars.
- What car are you driving now?
- At all in turn.
- And which one was purchased first?
- Volkswagen Beetle - it was in 1965. I made the first long trip to Hungary, where Soviet troops were then stationed. I visited my mother’s sister in Budapest and rested at Balaton.
- I wish you good impressions of the trip to Russia in a car with a body made of Russian titanium.