Volkswagen Group of America took the wraps off a testing center in Oxnard on Aug. 20, unveiling a facility that will help the automaker meet tough new California emissions standards as it tries to expand its brands in the U.S.
The 64,000-square-foot facility cost the German company $27 million, replaces an older Westlake Village location and is expected to employ about 50 people. The German parent company ― which also owns Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini and recently acquired Porsche ― aims to make the Oxnard facility the last stop before vehicles are approved for production. Among other things, it will carry out emissions testing for automobiles headed for Europe, Japan and California.
“With all the new and upcoming legislation passed, the technology will change tremendously,” Matthias Barke, general manager of the Oxnard test center, said at the facility’s grand opening. He said the old facility in Westlake Village carried out 1,900 tests last year, and the Oxnard facility is capable of 5,000 tests a year.
While VW’s leaders are spending $4 billion to expand in the United States ― money that included a $1 billion plant in Tennessee ― the company’s leaders looked around the country for a new testing site. “California is still easier for building this than Germany,” Barke said. “We needed sea level, and we needed clean air” because emissions tests are benchmarked against existing air. “We can’t be in a dirty industrial area. Oxnard came out of a global search.”
Though the Oxnard test center’s main job is certifying new vehicles for production, it also serves as the main service and training center in the Americas for Bugatti, the moniker whose Veyron holds the title of world’s fastest production automobile with a speed record of 268 mph. That makes Oxnard the only place in North America to get a tire changed for the $1.4 million car.
VW’s top brass also expect to use the facility as a lead site for integrating engine development ― with its tough emissions requirements ― into the rest of the production process.
Wolfgang Hatz, the head of engine development for all of VW’s global brands who was on hand for the grand opening, said he hopes the facility will help VW crack the market for diesel engines, which are best-sellers in Europe but barely a blip on the U.S. passenger car radar. “I see a bright future for the diesel,” he said. “Step by step, we will get more market share. Green diesel fuel is available everywhere, and the price is no more than premium gasoline.”