GF Automotive

Lightweight construction for a Chinese heavyweight

The seven-seater VW Teramont is the new flagship SUV of SAIC Volkswagen.

Qian Peiqing, Head of Department in the Development Division at SAIC Volkswagen in Anting (China).

Safety a million times over

Qian Peiqing is a Head of Department in the Development Division of SAIC Volkswagen in Anting. He validates all suspension parts and knows what components must be capable of in order to be used by the company millions of times. This is why he appreciates working with GF Automotive.

SAIC Volkswagen and GF Automotive have worked together since 2007. Why does this partnership work so well?

It starts in the predevelopment phase: GF Automotive in Kunshan has excellent expertise in this field. In addition, the materials and production techniques are in line with our high quality standards. Another advantage of GF Automotive is its swift response time: if we come up against a problem in a test, for example, our colleagues at GF Automotive are always quick to come up with a solution.

Your company is the biggest automobile manufacturer in China. How important is quality when it comes to maintaining this status?

Quality is a key factor because of the enormous competitive pressure. This applies to the early development phase in particular: after all, this is where the quality foundation is laid down for subsequent serial production.

What are the standards you require of the components?

Every component I validate is relevant to safety, so our requirements here are particularly high. The material has to be able to stand up to all stress tests and maintain the required stability, for example. In lightweight construction in particular this is very demanding – after all, the advantages of weight saving must not be at the expense of safety.

What are the benefits offered by GF Automotive’s lightweight elements, such as the front knuckles?

The specific design and the material used ensure the same stability as conventional components, but at a reduced weight. Lightweight construction is an important issue for our end customers, too. They know that lightweight construction reduces fuel consumption and increases driving dynamics. Both of these are important selling points.

SAIC Volkswagen, a joint venture between the VW Group and SAIC Motor, is the leading car manufacturer in the world’s biggest automotive market China. Bionic lightweight construction components made by GF Automotive have been used for years to reduce weight in these cars, including from 2017 in the new flagship SUV for the Chinese market.

Unparalleled success story

It all started with the VW Santana, which was the first model produced in a joint venture that Volkswagen and Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) had just embarked upon in 1984. SAIC Volkswagen offers a giant product range and has now become the most important manufacturer in China, where every third new car in the world is produced. The Joint Venture sold 1.81 million vehicles in 2015, and has already hit this level again by November 2016.

GF Automotive has contributed to this success story for years, and continues to grow with its German-Chinese partner: in all its VW models produced in Shanghai, SAIC Volkswagen installs innovative lightweight components made by GF Automotive. “It’s a great honor for us to enjoy the trust of China’s biggest manufacturer, a company that is growing across all product categories," says Maggie Jiang, Head of Sales Iron Casting in China. She has been supporting the customer for six years, ever since serial production of the lightweight components started at the GF Automotive plant in Kunshan. “It was an important step for us," Maggie Jiang recalls, “because SAIC Volkswagen was not just keen to use our cast iron parts, but also wanted to tap into our local development expertise."

As Head of Sales Iron Casting China, Maggie Jiang has provided customer support for SAIC Volkswagen ever since GF Automotive in Kunshan started serial production of lightweight parts for the company’s cars.

Lightweight construction based on a special material

A few figures show just how important this step was and is: the 300 employees at Kunshan produced some 2.9 million components for the German-Chinese joint venture last year – including front knuckles, wheel carriers and upper and lower control arms. Head of Sales Maggie Jiang knows why demand is so great: “Our bionic lightweight design is unique. The components save weight, yet still meet the customer’s stability requirements." This is due to the fact that they are produced using SiboDur, an innovative high-strength spheroidal graphite iron made by GF Automotive, which is not only more suitable than steel but also less expensive.

It’s a great honor for us to enjoy the trust of China’s biggest manufacturer, a company that is growing across all product categories.

Maggie Jiang, Head of Sales Iron Casting China, GF Automotive, Kunshan (China)

To make their vehicles lighter in the future, SAIC Volkswagen can rely on expertise from Kunshan, where GF Automotive experts work in close collaboration with SAIC Volkswagen to ensure all components are perfectly adapted to vehicle platforms. SAIC Volkswagen is making increasing use of the modular system known as MQB platform – to produce a wide range of model variants from a few components. Furthermore, the modules contribute significantly to targeted weight reduction, as SAIC Volkswagen has redeveloped them using lightweight materials. This brings down fuel consumption.

Order for prestige model

So it comes as no surprise that the partnership is set to grow further. For 2017, SAIC Volkswagen has ordered additional lightweight components from GF Automotive for its new flagship SUV: the seven-seater VW Teramont is to roll off the production line from spring 2017, showcasing the strengths of GF Automotive front knuckles and upper and lower control arms. Similar components are already installed in the smaller Tiguan SUV. As these off-road vehicles are very important to all parties, the development departments are in constant contact and engaged in ongoing dialog. “We’re experienced and well-coordinated, which is important because the demand for SUVs in China is huge," says Maggie Jiang.

SAIC Volkswagen, a joint venture between the VW Group and SAIC Motor, is the leading car manufacturer in the world’s biggest automotive market China.

SAIC Volkswagen offers a giant model range from small and midsized cars to the seven-seater SUV, the Teramont.

To make their vehicles lighter in the future, SAIC Volkswagen counts on lightweight components from GF Automotive, such as front knuckles.

SAIC Volkswagen

SAIC Volkswagen is one of the oldest and biggest joint ventures in the Chinese automotive industry, producing at three plants: more than 22ʼ000 employees are working at Anting, Nanjing, and Yizheng. Established in 1984, the one-millionth car came off the production line thirteen years later in Anting. Meanwhile, SAIC Volkswagen has an enormous model range from the small car to the seven-seater SUV, the Teramont. In 2015, SAIC Volkswagen supplied 1.81 million vehicles, making it the number one on the Chinese automotive market. The partnership with GF Automotive started in 2007.

GF Automotive: Worldwide presence

GF Automotive manufactures at eleven production sites in Germany, Austria, China, and USA. In those countries as well as in Switzerland, Korea, and Japan it also operates sales offices. The lightweight research and development competency is in Schaffhausen (Switzerland) and Suzhou (China).