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Models and Technology

Jump in line, up!

While on a tour through Wolfsburg, two employees recount how they brought the fastest up! of all time to series production.

This is one of his last visits to Wolfsburg for the up! GTI ­project. There is still one ­important milestone to achieve – production of the series in Bratislava. Miro Sojak is the project manager for the entire up! family at the Slovakia site, where the ­vehicle has been rolling off the production line since 2011. Sojak has been at ­Volkswagen Slovakia for ten years. Now the 34-year-old is supervising the newest up! family offshoot on its road to the assembly line.

His counterpart in Wolfsburg is Joachim Traue, the project manager responsible for the up! GTI. The 46-year-old manager was hired to work in the prototype engineering department at Volkswagen in 2004. He is currently not only involved in the series production launch in Bratislava, but is also making sure that everything runs smoothly 10,000 kilometers away in Taubaté, Brazil. Traue, who has a degree in mechanical ­engineering, is the point of convergence of various project threads. That’s because he is the one who coordinates the up! GTI in the Small (G1) production line. The team is made up of around twenty employees from Technical Development, ­Procurement, Production and Sales. A representative from Bratislava, the primary plant for the smallest Volkswagen, is also on the team and often joins discussions via a live video feed.

» Our up! GTI is a snappy little car with a lot of power – just terrific! «

With the up! GTI underneath the suspended ceiling of the Autostadt in Wolfsburg: Miro Sojak (left) and Joachim Traue.

“The up! GTI does an excellent job of conveying the typical GTI driving ­experience. Anyone who has driven it once knows this instantly,” says Traue with conviction. He climbs into the snappy car, while Sojak in the passenger seat says: “Yes, you’re right – a snappy little car with a lot of power. Just terrific!” He has already driven the up! GTI at “his factory” in Bratislava and is enthusiastic about what the little guy can do.
The idea of a sporty up! was revived a good three years ago. “At the time we were thinking about an up! GT, which we even showed at the International Motor Show in Frankfurt,” says Traue. That became the up! GTI – from a GT to a GTI. So the sporty up! became part of the legendary GTI family and is the little brother of the Polo GTI and the Golf GTI – in the proper style with the three letters everyone knows on the back.

» We have a great team that was jointly able to find good solutions. «

The hub for the series production ­preparations is the pilot hall in Bratislava as well. That’s where Traue and Sojak have met repeatedly over the past weeks to make the last round of decisions that conclude the pre-series. The start of production of the up! GTI will be given the green light in a few days’ time. The particular challenge here is that the up! GTI has to be integrated into the current up! production line. “It functions the same way it did with the sporty-robust cross up!, which was added about a year ago, or with the e-up!,” Sojak explains. The individual up! models run bumper to bumper on one line. Soon there will be an occasional GTI in the mix.

Much of what has to be built into the up! GTI is new. For example, the 115-hp TSI engine, the 17-inch alloy wheels, the red brake calipers and the equally red diagonal stripes in front, the honeycomb pattern of the cooler grille, the plaid seats, and the wide side skirts. “Do you remember, ­Joachim, how hard it was to attach the roof spoiler to the rear flap of the up! GTI?” the Slovakian start-up manager asks on their drive together. “Yes,” replies Traue who hails from Wolfsburg. “Luckily, we have a great team that was jointly able to find good solutions. The production of our up! GTI can now be slowly ramped up.” Sojak smiles and high-fives his German colleague at the wheel of the sporty little car.

The up! GTI duo starts their tour through Wolfsburg at the plant (top). Miro Sojak tests the adhesion of the GTI stripes on the up! door at the Bratislava site (below).

Off we go: our smallest GTI