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Models and Technology

An expert trio

Bruno Marques, Christian Kolano and Niels Ole Ulrich make up the German-Brazilian development trio that has brought the Virtus to series production readiness. Looking back at a transatlantic development project.

The distance separating Wolfsburg and the Brazilian plant in Anchieta, is 8,665 kilometers as the crow flies. The plant is barely 20 kilometers from São Paulo, a megacity of 12 million. Some 9,000 employees here have been working on the Gol and the Saveiro for many years, and − in the last few weeks − on the “Novo Polo,” the new generation of the Polo. And another model is poised in the starting blocks − the Virtus. Across two continents, a pair of employees from Overall Vehicle Development in Wolfsburg and their Brazilian colleagues and teams worked together to bring the notchback sedan to the pre-series stage.

» I make sure that the wishes of Brazilian customers are reflected in the Virtus. «

Bruno Marques

The process started at the end of 2014, when the tasks were split up between Wolfsburg and Brazil. In addition, the number of test vehicles and individual development areas, such as acoustics and chassis, were defined and allocated to either the Brazilian or German site – a transatlantic division of labor in regard to the development of the new Virtus.

Bruno Marques (28, above right) is the Brazilian in the Virtus trio. The mechanic started working in Technical Development in Anchieta ten years ago.

Christian Kolano (35), from Zwickau, Germany, has been involved in the Virtus project for more than three years. An automotive technology engineer, he was also part of the Overall Vehicle Development team for the XL1 one-liter car.

This also gave clarity to the spokespeople for the specialist team. They support the car project from initial designs to series production launch. During testing, they coordinate everything. In particular they ensure that what goes into the car is what the customer in South America wants. Christian Kolano explains: “As spokespeople for the specialist team at Overall Vehicle Development, we are the advocates for the future customers during the development phase.” One example is how and where a bottle of the Brazilian guaraná soft drink fits in the center console.

The tip came from Bruno Marques, the Virtus man in Brazil. He started learning German as a child. Now the 28-year-old is the link between the developers in Anchieta and ­Wolfsburg. “I represent the interests of my ­country’s customers and integrate them in the project.” It was important to him, for example, that three adults could be seated comfortably in the back seat of the Virtus. To accomplish that, the seat had to be adapted, the transmission tunnel made flatter, and the wheel base widened.

The development took place virtually into the summer months. Everything was tested in a car seat mock-up. That was the point at which Niels Ole joined the team. The 30-year-old mechanical engineer says with a grin, “In our job you soon get to know your car like the back of your hand.” For him the most important moment during development came after a drive on the testing ground in Taubaté, a two-hour drive northeast of São Paulo. “At that moment I was completely convinced that the Virtus would be a great car.”

» After a test drive in Taubaté, I was completely convinced that the Virtus would be a great car. «

Niels Ole Ulrich

The trio tested the first test vehicles very intensively at that time. Decisions were made regarding every detail, from the chassis to the assistants to the bumpers, rims, and color. That was the really critical phase of the project. With tests in Wolfsburg, in Anchieta, in the African desert and at the Arctic Circle.

The Brazilian-German trio applied the results of the test drives directly to the car. Kolano, who has been working at Overall Vehicle Development in Wolfsburg for ten years, reports: “For weeks, things were happening thick and fast. From release to release. We were driving the Virtus constantly during that period, so were able to also add what we ‘experienced’ personally to the evaluations.”

Niels Ole Ulrich (30), an automotive mechanical engineer, has been part of the Virtus spokesperson group for the team in Overall Vehicle Development since summer of 2015.

The Virtus from Anchieta – our newcomer

The Virtus is the successor to the Voyage. The notchback sedan in the compact car segment is very popular in Brazil, and also as an export car in South America. The Virtus is manufactured at the Anchieta plant, and is a significant project for the development at that location. Some two-thirds of the employees are working on this model. In addition, the series production is a particular challenge, as the Virtus is being built on a new platform of the modular transverse matrix (MQB).

The two men from Wolfsburg, Kolano and Ulrich, were often coming and going in Anchieta. For weeks at a time one of the two was always on-site, and they filled in for each other then. Also in Wolfsburg, on the other side of the Atlantic. They took advantage of the time difference – it was five hours back then – in the process. When an email was sent to Wolfsburg in the evening, the answer was often already in the inbox the next morning. Ulrich remembers it well: “The teamwork was great. We could rely on each other completely.” The same applies to Marques, their Brazilian partner. They started out as colleagues and became friends.

The Virtus trio’s job was done when series production started in November. As spokesperson for the team, Kolano is currently helping prepare for series production of the Polo in Pamplona, Spain, and in Uitenhage, South Africa. Marques and Ulrich are maintaining the Germany-Brazil connection. They are still building bridges between the continents and vigorously advancing the model initiative in South America – soon with derivatives of the Polo and a new SUV in the compact car segment.

The Virtus

Our new sedan from Brazil

World premiere of the Virtus – about 60 days after the launch of the “novo Polo,” the new Virtus notchback celebrated its world premiere in Brazil. The Virtus sets new standards in design, technology, spaciousness, and performance for compact cars in South America.
With a length of 4.48 meters, this notchback sedan is 42.5 centimeters longer than the Polo. The wheelbase has also grown. At 2.65 meters, it extends 8.5 centimeters further than that of the Polo. And with a volume of 521 liters, the sedan’s luggage compartment is larger than any in its class.
The Virtus is based on the Modular Transverse Matrix (MQB) and has a large number of features on board, including an Active Info Display, digital instruments, an 8-inch Discover Media infotainment system, and three USB ports.
The TSI Total Flex engine (ethanol) gives the Virtus 94 kW/128 hp with a torque of 200 Nm. The car sprints from 0 to 100 km/h in less than 10 seconds, and has a top speed of 194 km/h.
The Virtus will be available at dealerships in Brazil in January 2018.