Audi’s Aluminum-Intensive Undertakings

Gary S. Vasilash

When Audi revealed its ASF—Audi Space Frame—its aluminum-intensive structure at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 1993, it was one of those things that was undoubtedly considered to be a clever concept. . .but not much more. After all, when it comes to vehicle builds, steel is what you use, unless, of course, you’re making something really exotic, at which point there is some sort of fiber-reinforced plastic matrix in place. Aluminum? C’mon.

Yet the following year, Audi brought out the A8, its big sedan based on the ASF. 336 components. Extruded aluminum and diecastings. Floor, roof, side panels—aluminum. As it was early days, about 75% of the assembly tasks were performed manually.


Audi space frame

As time went on, Audi bought out several other ASF-based vehicles. The A2 in 2000. TT in 2006. R8 in 2008. Two other A8s—2002 and 2008. They’ve manufactured some 750,000 ASF-based cars.

One of the things that they learned along the way was that in some cases, it is useful to use other materials in the structure. Like high-strength steels.

Next week, 20 years on from that original concept, Audi will be revealing a new A8 at the Frankfurt Motor Show. It will have the ASF architecture, and aluminum/high-strength steel hybrid construction.

The body weighs 231 kg. Or 509 lb.

Audi engineers estimate that if they used a conventional all-steel approach, there would be a mass increase of approximately 40%. 323 kg. 712 lb.

The concept was clever. So is this construction.