- The manufacturers send their cars into the desert
- Exertions for people and material
- Global test car tourism
- Land Rover at over 4000 meters
- No time for sightseeing
The manufacturers send their cars into the desert
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Before cars go on sale, they are tested under extreme conditions: Mercedes sends its Erlkonige – here an SL prototype – to the desert, among other places.
Source: dpa-tmn / srw cw
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Many manufacturers make their test drives in Death Valley, in the Nevada desert. There they can get the Erlkonige, as the secret prototypes of new cars are called, under extreme conditions…conditions torment.
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Over hill and dale in Utah: The new Range Rover had to prove itself in the Moab Desert, among other places – as a condition for production approval.
Source: dpa-tmn / srw cw
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The seclusion also protects the top secret prototypes from curious photographers.
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Two-way traffic is rather rare on the lonely desert roads.
Source: picture alliance / Lonely Planet
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But tests are not only carried out in the heat; the developers also try out the vehicles in extreme cold. In this photo, Opel was in Arjeplog in 2009 with an Astra Erlkonig…, Sweden.
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And BMW is happy to ship its prototypes for test drives as far as Alaska.
Source: dpa-tmn / srw cw
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Extreme conditions also prevail in the Chinese provincial capital Chengdu. For this reason, Volkswagen is often on the road with prototypes there.
Source: dpa-tmn / srw cw
Working in places that others don’t even see on vacation: To ensure that new cars work even under the most adverse conditions, developers are traveling around the globe with prototypes. A backbreaking job.
W.hen the VW developers drive through China with their prototypes, that has little to do with holidays. The food is only shrink-wrapped and they prefer to go into the bushes than to the toilet. To be on the safe side, there is always an ambulance in the rear.
"Sometimes that is a real adventure," says Jorg Rohrbeck, who organizes the trips and is now on the road with a group of five camouflaged prototypes, so-called Erlkonigen, near the provincial capital Chengdu.
For one day, the vehicles cross country roads that have knee-deep potholes instead of asphalt, and brand new motorways. They jam on eight-lane arterial roads, speed quickly over mountain passes and stumble in stop-and-go traffic through villages where time seemed to have stood still a hundred years ago.
Exertions for people and material
But the engineers take the strain on people and materials with a smile. Because that’s why they’re here. "You have to test the cars where you want to sell them later," says VW development chief Ulrich Hackenberg, who regularly flies around the globe for such test drives.
“Because only in the Chinese traffic do you notice whether the Chinese will be satisfied with a car. And it’s no different in America or Japan. That cannot be simulated at home in Wolfsburg, ”says the VW technician.
Global test car tourism
While Hackenberg philosophizes about the meaning and purpose of such adventure tours, his gaze constantly sweeps over the joints in the body. He feels deep into the seats, checks the gaps, pushes and wobbles on the trim and changes gears to check the transmission. Only if nothing rattles on the worst roads is he satisfied. Only then does he give production approval.
Because globalization continues and customers in China, India or South America are becoming more and more important for manufacturers, global test car tourism has long since started in the companies: the deserts of Namibia, the mountains in the US state of Utah, the passes in the Himalayas , the sultriness of Dubai, the ice in Alaska or the traffic jam in Tokyo – the camouflaged prototypes are everywhere, says Pip Archer.
Archer is in charge of testing at Land Rover and has expanded its operating range significantly in recent years. The new Range Rover, for example, which will go on sale at the beginning of next year, has been on the road in 20 countries and covered many millions of kilometers in the process.
Land Rover at over 4000 meters
India and China have recently been on the itinerary for Archer’s prototypes. The monsoons, with the heavy rain and the stifling climate, place such high demands on the vehicles that it is better to try them out under the original conditions, says the Briton, explaining the trips to the subcontinent.
And since Land Rovers have also been sold in China and run through the Himalayas there, full functionality has to be ensured even at altitudes of over 4,000 meters: “The air becomes so thin that some engines reach their limits.” This is why new ones are storming British cars now have to cross the highest mountain passes before it becomes more commonplace.
The BMW developers at the Bayern outpost in Oxnard, California, freeze at the thought of their next tours. An hour north of Los Angeles it is still cozy and warm, and after work the Pacific beach beckons.
No time for sightseeing
But in a few months the engineers will start again for winter testing in Alaska, says site manager Werner Lehner. At temperatures well below minus 30 degrees, they measure the exhaust gas values, test the cold start, put the air conditioning system through its paces – and freeze until the teeth chatter.
Of course, in such extreme tests, the test drivers come all over the world and see places that many do not even discover on vacation. But even if, for example, the locals celebrate the area around Chengdu as the Tuscany of China, the mountains covered in fog for weeks have only a modest appeal for engineers from the west.
There is no time for sightseeing on these trips anyway. And the only souvenir that often remains is a cold, says a tester from Opel, who once again commutes between the ice cream in Sweden and the scorching heat in Spain.
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