How the Volkswagen Group’s worldwide logistics teams help fight COVID-19

As one of the world’s largest automakers, the Volkswagen Group has a special expertise in getting essential parts to the right place at the right time. Over the past three months, that expertise in shipping and logistics has taken on a new mission: Finding, transporting and in some cases setting up production for personal protective equipment needed to fight the COVID-19 outbreak worldwide. In the United States, Volkswagen worked with a consortium of other manufacturers and suppliers, including Dow and Whirlpool, to help launch much-needed production of respirator hoods. In Mexico, Volkswagen worked with fabrics and seating supplier Faurecia to launch production of face masks and gowns for front-line medical workers. And in Germany, Volkswagen experts found a way in a matter of days to ship an estimated $40 million worth of vital protective equipment and supplies – including respiratory masks and disinfectants – from China to help ease equipment shortages in Europe. “Working globally at speed is one of the key strengths that makes the Volkswagen Group a successful automaker,” said Michael Lovati, senior vice president of purchasing and chief procurement officer for the North American Region at Volkswagen Group of America. “We know how to get suppliers and buyers together to get products where they need to be, and we’ve been thankful for the opportunity to help our communities worldwide fight this disease.” At Volkswagen Chattanooga, a team of supply and logistics experts have been working for the past few months to broker connections with materials and supply-chain partners to find critical components and fabric. One of the first projects: helping seat supplier Faurecia set up a production line for personal protective equipment at its factory in Puebla, Mexico. With Volkswagen’s help, plus an initial order of 70,000 masks and 5,000 gowns, Faurecia was able to pivot its processes, and can now produce upwards of 1,000,000 masks and 50,000 gowns per week. The Volkswagen task force also assisted Dow and Whirlpool to help produce a powered, air-purifying respirator, or PAPR. With regular N95 protective masks being used rapidly, the PAPR replaces those masks and visors, using a replaceable polyethylene hood that’s flexible, comfortable, and can quickly be replaced between patients. Volkswagen, Dow and parts supplier Magna have also teamed up to launch production of medical gowns. When the outbreak emerged in Germany in March, Volkswagen had already been shipping personal protective equipment to China to support workers facing the outbreak there. Volkswagen arranged for a donation of masks and medical clothing to German hospitals and medical centers – but needed to move them from China first. Due to the critical nature of the request and the growing amount of COVID-19 cases, the Volkswagen teams in China and Germany knew they needed to act quickly. “Normally such a transport takes at least a week. This time we had to make it in half that time,” said Anna Levina, a Volkswagen logistics expert in Germany. “We knew that it would be a very tight race.” Working alongside Volkswagen Group China, Levina’s team was able to overcome multiple obstacles to make this vision a reality, including obtaining all the necessary transportation paperwork and securing a shipping agent in a matter of 72 hours. “We handled the transport with good teamwork. If anyone hadn’t pulled along, we would have failed,” explains Jian Zhou, Head of Logistics at Volkswagen Group China. “It was like a race with different starting points. We had to coordinate with each other constantly along the way.” With the entire world scrambling for the same tools, supplier relations and buyers who can negotiate with them have become essential. Volkswagen buyer Jens-Michael Potthast has been working with colleagues in Beijing to source PPE for global markets. “It’s an absolute sellers’ market. You have to be resourceful and incredibly fast,” says Potthast. “Without good contacts on site, we would achieve little. That’s why it’s extremely important that the procurers in Germany and China have a short line of communication to one another.” < In addition, the Volkswagen Group has started to produce face shield holders by 3D printing at its plants across Europe. This is part of a joint transnational initiative with Airbus and the 3D printing network of about 250 companies known as Mobility Goes Additive and was launched after requests from authorities in Spain for medical protective gear. Production is in progress not only at the large 3D printing centers in Wolfsburg and Ingolstadt, but also at other plants of Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, MAN Truck & Bus, Porsche, Volkswagen Passenger Cars, Volkswagen Group Components and Volkswagen Motorsport. The Group currently uses more than 50 3D printers at its plants, and Volkswagen has added additional printers for this project. In America, the Volkswagen e-Labs at schools in the Chattanooga area pressed their 3D printers into service for face shield production. 3D-printed headbands were delivered to the Public Education Foundation in Chattanooga, which then added the plastic face shields and distributed the final product to local medical centers. 3D printing has shown its usefulness in other ways as well. In collaboration with the Technical University in Prague, ŠKODA has developed a 3D printing process to produce reusable FFP3 respirators. The Czech Ministry of Health is now distributing these to doctors, hospitals, and nursing staff. And in Italy, Lamborghini converted space in its sports car production plant in Sant’Agata Bolognese to produce surgical masks and protective plexiglass shields for Italian front-line workers. “It’s one thing to organize parts for cars. It’s what we do. We knew that this time it was a matter of human lives,” says Levina. “It’s about keeping doctors healthy. Everybody’s put their backs into it.”

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On National Road Trip Day, where do you want to go next?

Due to COVID-19, Americans have stayed off the road, but it doesn’t mean the desire to see the world has faded. It’s not too early to dream about where your first road trip might be and Volkswagen wants to hear about your dream trips today on National Road Trip Day. Volkswagen enthusiasts across the country are invited to join the conversation on social media by sharing the destinations and people they’ll visit once we can all hit the open road again. When the green light is given by your local authorities, and you’re ready and able to drive, we hope you’ll find road trip inspiration in our list of iconic U.S. locales that our staff are daydreaming about visiting (or revisiting). Share your dream travel list or trip ideas with us on social media, tagging @VW on Instagram. West Coast – The Pacific Coast Highway: Nicknamed the All-American Road, the Pacific Coast Highway is one of the most famous and breathtakingly scenic routes in the entire country. Making cameos in several movies, it traverses 521 miles of beaches, mountains and even the city of Los Angeles. It’s a guaranteed cure for cabin fever and a breath of fresh air in one trip. East Coast – The Blue Ridge Parkway: As a National Parkway, this option is also known as the country’s longest linear park. It runs from Virginia all the way to Cherokee, North Carolina, clocking in at 469 miles. A fun fact is that the speed limit is never higher than 45 mph, making this option a leisurely cruise that allows you to really enjoy the surrounding nature. Cross Country – Route 66: Known to every American, it’s no surprise that Route 66 is called “The Main Street of America” but did you know it is the most Instagrammed road trip with 1,708,620 hashtags as of early 2020? Route 66 crosses 8 states and 3 time zones, covering 2,448 miles. We suggest starting in Chicago. New England – Connecticut River Blueway: The New England region is known for its oceanic coastline, its craggy mountains and brilliant autumn foliage, but the 410-mile-long Connecticut River Blueway is a hidden gem. As the country’s first and only Blueway, it touches four of the six New England states and has canoe/kayak routes as well as greenways for hiking and bicycling. New York – Hudson Valley: This 7,000+ mile region is named after the fact it stretches along the Hudson River from Westchester County to Albany, the New York state capital. It’s home to many farms, orchards and charming rural stops, which is something you don’t normally associate with New York. The Storm King Art Center is an open-air museum with contemporary outdoor sculptures that we’re itching to go back to. National Park Pick – Joshua Tree: Immortalized in pop culture, this park shares its name with the widely recognizable Joshua tree species. Visit and you’ll see why the park holds such a strong place in pop culture – the sheer expanse of the park, the colossal boulders and the prismatic sunsets will leave a lasting impression. State Park Pick – Valley of Fire: Nevada’s oldest state park is one of the most Instagrammed places with 219,333 hashtags as of early 2020. Located in the Mojave Desert, the park’s dry and sunny climate is ideal for picnicking, camping, and hiking activities. You won’t be Vitamin D deficient after this trip.  

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#TBT: Ten movies co-starring Volkswagen classics

While many movie theaters remain closed, even as some states start to re-open this month, you can still get your film fix from home. Whether you want to watch something new or revisit an old favorite, these ten movies featuring Volkswagen models are perfect for any mood. The films are available for rent on most streaming services, so make some popcorn, dim the lights and see if you can spot these beloved cars. ‘The Love Bug’ (1968): A down-on-his-luck racecar driver and his mechanic discover a white 1963 Volkswagen Beetle with a mind of its own. ‘Footloose’ (1984, 2011): When a teenager gets pulled over for listening to rock-n-roll in his yellow 1972 Volkswagen Beetle, he realizes his small town is overdue for some change. ‘Pretty in Pink’ (1986): A high school misfit drives her light pink 1959 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia to the prom – a perfect accessory to her homemade, puffy-sleeved dress. ‘Happy Gilmore’ (1996): The transformation of a hockey hack into a pro golfer takes many hilarious turns, including an attack with a white 1972 Volkswagen Super Beetle. ‘50 First Dates’ (2004): An art teacher suffering from short-term memory loss drives a sunny yellow 1973 Volkswagen Thing as she goes on dates around Hawaii. ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ (2006): A dysfunctional family comes together as they road-trip to California in a yellow 1971 Volkswagen T2 Microbus. ‘Horrible Bosses’ (2011): Three disgruntled employees plot revenge against their oppressive bosses from a silver 2011 Volkswagen Jetta. ‘Bumblebee’ (2018): When a teenager discovers a beat-up yellow 1967 Volkswagen Beetle in a junkyard, she unwittingly brings an extraterrestrial civil war to Earth. ‘Once Upon A Time in Hollywood’ (2019): An actor’s stunt double drives a baby blue 1964 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia as he struggles to find meaningful work in the final years of Hollywood’s Golden Age. ‘Between Two Ferns: The Movie’ (2019): In his quest to earn a show on network TV, a comedian drives his 2006 Volkswagen Passat wagon across the country, interviewing celebrities along the way.

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How the latest 4Motion® with Active Control all-wheel drive system helps keep the Atlas on track

Last year, nearly 8 million vehicles sold in America came with some form of all-wheel-drive. In northern states, all-wheel or four-wheel drive has long been considered essential for winter travel. Even in southern states, all-wheel drive has gained in popularity as a peace-of-mind feature for wild weather days. But as anyone who’s driven on snowy or muddy roads knows, there’s more to getting going than simply which wheel does the work.1 This is why the available 4Motion® with Active Control system on the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas and 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport uses sensors and smart software to direct traction to where it’s needed most. Volkswagen first introduced an all-wheel-drive system for America on the 1986 Quantum Syncro wagon, followed closely by the Syncro model of the Vanagon. Since then, Volkswagen has offered some form of all-wheel drive in several models across its lineup, from the Golf Alltrack and Golf R to the Arteon and Tiguan. All-wheel drive does not mean all wheels drive all the time. That’s actually a good way to burn fuel unnecessarily; instead, the 4Motion system uses an advanced electronic clutch on the rear axle that lets the rear wheels rotate while the front wheels power the Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport in everyday driving. The 4Motion with Active Control system on the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas and 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport uses sensors and smart software to direct traction to where it’s most needed. Even when it’s not engaged, the 4Motion system measures the wheel speed multiple times a second, looking for signs of wheel slip. The 4Motion software has been designed to engage before the vehicle’s front wheels lose traction. The electronically controlled clutch can engage in a fraction of a second, sending up to 50 percent of the engine’s power to the rear axle as needed. If an individual wheel begins to slip, the Electronic Stability Control can slow it down, sending more power to the wheel on the opposite side with traction. The Active Control system gives drivers a tool to set how the Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport interact with different types of surfaces, varying engine power, transmission shifts and other parameters. Beyond the “Onroad” mode for everyday driving, Active Control also offers Snow, Offroad and Offroad Custom modes. In “Snow” mode, Active Control employs a more aggressive approach to stopping wheelspin, by employing transmission shifts earlier to help optimize traction, and reducing engine power when the Traction Control System detects slippage. The system is designed to be most sensitive when cornering, and traction is of paramount importance. In “Offroad,” Active Control manages the throttle and transmission similar to “Snow” mode but adds manual transmission control with Tiptronic® and relaxes the wheelspin settings and customizes the ABS system to provide better traction and stopping distances on loose dirt.2 Hill Descent Control is automatically activated on gradients more than 10 percent. For the first time, the 4Motion with Active Control is available with either four-cylinder or V6 for the 2021 Atlas, as it is with the 2020 Atlas Cross Sport. Either way, the technology has decades of experience in keeping you on track.  

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Be inspired from home with help from MoMA

A view of the fifth-floor collection galleries. Shown: Vincent van Gogh. The Starry Night. Saint Rémy, June 1889. 1914–26. Oil on canvas. Acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest (by exchange). Conservation was made possible by the Bank of America Art Conservation Project. Photo: Noah Kalina. As a partner since 2011 and the lead sponsor of education since 2015, Volkswagen is proud to support the ongoing and expanded educational opportunities at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City. While MoMA’s galleries are temporarily closed, the Museum has taken its programs and exhibitions online through #MuseumFromHome, a global initiative that allows the public the rare chance to view the Museum’s exhibitions and partake in an array of programs and activities from home. With the shift to be a virtual Museum, people from all over the world can now explore MoMA’s robust remote learning resources and gain a deeper understanding of the Museum’s comprehensive collection, which spans modern and contemporary art, fashion, and photography. Since the Museum’s closing, it has seen a spike in users taking advantage of these free online offerings. Since the Museum’s closure on March 13, enrollments in MoMA’s massive open online courses (MOOC) have increased by nearly 406,000, bringing the total number of enrollments to a new high of 1,167,055 as of April 30, 2020. Subscribers have had the chance to take virtual classes on photography, modern and contemporary art, fashion design, abstract painting, and more. Additionally, many classes have featured guest instructors from the MoMA staff to further enhance the online experience for learners. For example, since the online shift, the Research and Learning page tracked a nearly 455 percent increase in volume, compared to the period before closure. Most notably, the teacher resource page saw a nearly 260 percent increase. This site provides information for teachers to incorporate the galleries into curricula such as learning about modern and contemporary art, art activities, and strategies for engaging with art. The Museum also produced new online content to the overall Research and Learning page, which received over 1,751,500 page views in less than a month. “From the experimental beginning of MoMA online courses in 2010, Volkswagen had the vision to understand the potential for online learning and its power to connect people across the world through great learning experiences with art and artists,” said Wendy Woon, The Edward John Noble Foundation Deputy Director for Education at The Museum of Modern Art. “They have been a true partner, supporting MoMA Education as we have continued to learn with and from our communities of learners as they have exponentially grown, and now more than ever it is helping us to start conversations about topics that matter prompted by MoMA’s collection.” For your own virtual look inside the museum, check out the MoMA website by clicking here. You can also view their online educational resources and additional learning experiences by clicking the following links: Research and Learning and MoMA Learning.

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The road to amazing sound, driven by Volkswagen, Fender and Panasonic

While stay-at-home orders are easing in some states, most are months away from re-opening concert venues. Many musicians are continuing to share their talents by holding virtual performances, giving fans a show while raising funds for those impacted by the pandemic. And the most advanced sound system available for listening to those events – or even finding a few minutes of solitude with your favorite tunes under lockdown – may be in your vehicle. On Thursday, May 14 at 8 pm ET, Volkswagen of America and Fender will share a live stream concert by blues rock guitar star Joe Bonamassa from his home in Southern California, to support touring musicians whose livelihood has been disrupted by the pandemic. Over the past nine years, Volkswagen has worked with Fender and Panasonic to bring music to life on the road with the Fender Premium Audio System – and whether it’s blues, rock, rap or any other genre, engineers have designed it to provide the highest level of performance, straight from the dealership. Dave Ernst, Senior Acoustics Engineer at Panasonic, has some advice for tuning your vehicle’s sound system: Start by listening to something you’re familiar with on the system’s original settings, then make small adjustments from there. Joe Bonamassa’s live stream performance on Thursday will support touring musicians who are unable to work due to the COVID-19 pandemic through Bonamassa’s Fueling Musicians Program, an emergency relief program organized by his non-profit organization, Keeping the Blues Alive. The program provides financial assistance for essential living expenses along with pre-paid fuel cards to qualified musicians in need. Photo: Christie Goodwin   The reason? His team of engineers and music experts have already spent hundreds of hours refining the optimal spatial performance, dynamics and frequency balance for a variety of musical genres, from classical to blues to pop. The team of designers have fine-tuned the system with the goal that, as Ernst notes, the driver (or whoever’s in charge of the music) won’t need to tune further unless they are looking for a specific sound element. “We want to make sure we can strike a balance that’s really going to sound great for any genre you can throw at it,” said Ernst. Ernst works closely with Fender to uphold the sound and “emotion of a live performance,” that makes the guitar brand so renowned, tailored to the specific Volkswagen model. The team selects the optimal speaker and amplifier components and fits them for the interior, managing the design tradeoffs such as component dimensions, weight, and performance. They use advanced digital signal processing technology to reduce peaks and dips in frequency responses, account for asymmetry within the vehicle and manage sound that may reflect off areas like the windshield and door panels. Then come the details. Dave Ernst tests the Fender Premium Audio System inside a Volkswagen. “We spend weeks listening to the system with different genres at different volumes in different settings,” Ernst said. A bass guitarist himself, he pays special attention to the role of the guitar when tuning the system. “We have to make sure we’re enhancing the character of the guitar without sounding too harsh. It’s about finding the right balance of energy.” Following that, the team spends extensive time on the road, making sure roadway noises do not ruin the sound once the vehicle’s in motion. “That’s where you want to make sure you have enough bass that it really still sounds as good as possible,” he said. Once it is complete, Ernst brings in musical artists to listen to their own work inside a Volkswagen. “That’s the most rewarding thing,” Ernst says. “These musicians have heard their music played back to them a hundred times, but not quite like this. I love watching the artists react to hearing their work.” Most artists do not expect such a high caliber of sound from inside a vehicle. But as Ernst notes, most drivers listen to music, podcasts or audiobooks during their commutes or on occasional road trips, so it’s logical to put such emphasis on sound for this space. Despite the many months spent engineering, Ernst says the process is more of an art than a science. “It’s a feeling,” he said. “It’s when you get in a Volkswagen and think, ‘I could listen to music in this car for hours.’ That’s when you know you have made a quality system.”

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How Volkswagen owners are supporting COVID-19 relief efforts

College student Nate Byrnes makes delivery runs in his 2005 Jetta for Mercer County’s Meals on Wheels chapter in New Jersey. Amid the COVID-19 crisis, Volkswagen drivers across the nation are pitching in to help their neighbors. Community service is nothing new to Marqese Singleton, and when the pandemic hit his community in early March, he had no plans of slowing down. A parent liaison for Hawthorne Avenue Elementary School in Newark, New Jersey, Singleton has distributed free, fresh vegetables to local families every week for the past three years. On Fridays, he picks up unused produce in his white 2013 Volkswagen Jetta, which he calls “the Hawthorne Car” because he uses it so frequently for his work. He drives the Jetta back to a nearby church, where a team of volunteers helps sort, package and distribute the collected produce to over 100 families. He typically devotes eight hours every weekend to the cause. However, as the COVID-19 crisis has put additional financial burdens on the Newark community, the demand for Singleton’s produce giveaway has surged, nearly doubling over the past two months. “We had to keep the vegetable service going,” he said. “The everyday issues in this community didn’t go anywhere.” His team of volunteers have expanded their curbside services to help feed up to 200 families. “Our list of families grows every week,” Singleton said. Marqese Singleton uses his 2013 Jetta to distribute free, fresh produce to families in Newark, N.J. He also introduced at-home delivery of fresh vegetables for parents who can’t leave their homes and expanded the service to anyone in the area who may be short on food, including those experiencing homelessness. “I pack up the supplies in the trunk and backseat [of my Jetta]. It usually takes several trips of filling the Hawthorne Car up and dropping off the vegetables to each family,” he says. “By the end of the day, I have bits of broccoli, peppers, zucchini and onions all over the inside of the car.” It may feel like a chore for some, but Singleton considers his weekend volunteerism a privilege. “It’s enough to see people smile and know they appreciate it,” he said. “It’s my job to help my community, and if I can help out by volunteering some extra time, that’s even better.” An hour away, Nate Byrnes was likewise inspired to give back to his New Jersey community during COVID-19. After seeing a call-out on social media in mid-March for extra assistance to support Mercer County’s Meals on Wheels chapter in New Jersey, Nate Byrnes immediately volunteered. An aspiring doctor, the 21-year-old biology student wanted to give back to his community in a significant and safe way. College student Nate Byrnes makes delivery runs in his 2005 Jetta for Mercer County’s Meals on Wheels chapter in New Jersey. Millions of elderly Americans depend on the nonprofit’s home-delivered hot meals for daily nourishment. But about three-quarters of the organization’s regular volunteers are 55 years and older –people most at risk from continued social contact. The rate of new elderly residents requesting meal delivery has tripled in the past month, so the group was looking for college-aged help. Using his 2005 Jetta, Byrnes has been able to make 15 runs and deliver more than 200 meals to those in need all while juggling his daily schoolwork. He’s also secured a job at a construction company to assist with symptom-based screening and received his emergency medical technician certification. “Being able to drive around and do something tangible to help the situation – besides staying home, which is probably the best thing you can do – feels really good,” Byrnes said. He says the best part of volunteering has been meeting other volunteers and new neighbors through the program. “I plan to keep volunteering even after this is all over,” said Byrnes. Melanie Moore in Cincinnati similarly felt compelled to action amid the crisis and found new ways to give back to her community during this difficult time. The former schoolteacher turned entrepreneur operates a mobile bookstore out of a teal 1962 Volkswagen Transporter and typically sells her inventory online and at area coffee shops and pop-ups. Charity has always been a major component of Moore’s business, Cincy Book Bus; she donates all profits to purchase books for children in low-income schools. “I usually fill up the truck with books I plan to donate and drive directly to the school so kids can come up and pick out their books in person,” Moore said. “It’s one of my favorite things to see how excited the children get about the Book Bus. The old gal is really the star of the show.” Melanie Moore, who runs her independent book business out of her teal 1962 Volkswagen Transporter, has donated more than $1,000 worth of new books to families in need during COVID-19. Since COVID-19, Moore has taken the bulk of her business online. She accepts virtual book orders through her website and ships them across the United States. During the crisis, she has discovered new and inventive ways to promote literacy and connection during this time of separation. Her partnership with the local Blue Manatee Literacy Project and Book Store has enabled her to continue her charity work and get free books into the hands of kids who need them the most. “I could get the books cheaper from my supplier, but for every book I buy through them they donate a book back to the community,” says Moore. As a result, she’s been able to donate $1,000 worth of new books to be distributed through the Cincinnati Public Schools meal program, which offers free and reduced-price lunches to students. The program is still operational and delivering meals to students three days a week despite recent school closures. She has also been able to stock a library for Casa de Paz (House of Peace), a safe house for Latina women and their children who have suffered trauma and abuse, and offered to gift wrap books with hand-written notes for free with book orders placed through her website for Mother’s Day. “Books can bring comfort and relief. They can transport you to another place and time – at least for a little while – and provide an escape from the stresses of today,” says Moore. “We need that feeling of peace and content, especially right now.”

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