Volkswagen opens $27-million Test Center in Oxnard, California

Article by Anita Panait, on August 22, 2012

Volkswagen has opened a $27 million (EUR21.7 million) technical center in Oxnard, California, to expand its engineering capabilities in the region as part of its efforts to fast-track sales in the United States. The 64,000-square-foot (5,946-square-meter) technical center will have an initial staff of 50 VW engineers and technicians, according to a statement from the German carmaker.

VW spokesman Darryll Harrison disclosed the technical center will also be used by another 250 engineers from Volkswagen Group's Audi, Bentley, Bugatti and Lamborghini brands. David Geanacopoulos, executive vice president for Volkswagen's US unit, remarked that the expansion of the carmaker’s global research and development footprint in the country underpins its commitment to the US market, and will help to position the company as a high quality brand locally and abroad.

The Oxnard technical center is part of VW’s $4 billion program to increase its market share in the US, where it lags behind Asian rivals like Toyota, Honda and Hyundai. VW-brand posted a 34-percent increase in sales for the first seven months of 2012, after opening a $1 billion auto-assembly plant in Tennessee as well as the addition of a new Passat sedan.

VW Group is aiming to surpass General Motors Co. to become the world's largest carmaker by 2018. VW's Test Center California houses laboratories for emissions testing and parts analysis, a workshop with more than 16 in-ground lifts, and a dealer service and training center, according to the carmaker.

The test center is tasked to conduct research on electric-vehicle systems and bio-diesel, Harrison told Automotive News. Volkswagen also has a facility in Auburn Hills, Michigan, that houses a technical-support staff and a test track, and a proving ground in Arizona.

The Volkswagen Group posted a gain of 7 percent in profit in the first half of 2012, as high demand for Audi vehicles in China and the US protected the carmaker from the impact of the current debt crisis in Europe. The VW Group saw its operating profit jump to a record-breaking figure of EUR6.49 billion ($8.0 billion) from EUR6.09 billion the previous year. Its overall sales, on the other hand, increased 23 percent to EUR95.4 billion.

Volkswagen is remaining faithful with its goal of matching the operating profit it posted last year at EUR11.3 billion, as higher revenue and auto deliveries offset higher development expenses. According to the average estimate of 21 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg, the German carmaker would post earnings before interest and taxes of EUR12.1 billion for 2012.

Volkswagen has already lessened its exposure to the European new-car market due to its expansion in China and the US.

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