Case Studies

Christopher Hahn – Volkswagen Group of America

Driving efficiency for Volkswagen

Growing up in Germany, Christopher Hahn could have been enamored with many European automakers, but at a young age, he was most impressed by the Audi Sport Quattro. Today, his favorite vehicle is the Lamborghini Urus, the Italian automaker’s luxury SUV. And which company owns the Audi and Lamborghini brands? Volkswagen, the company that has employed Hahn in various facilities and real estate roles for nearly three decades. 

Hahn serves as Volkswagen Group of America’s director of real estate and facility services. Under his leadership, the company has strategically invested in new battery facilities and factories in the U.S. and Canada to support VW’s focus on electrification. 

Christopher Hahn | Director, Real Estate & Facility Services | Volkswagen Group of America

Christopher Hahn | Director, Real Estate & Facility Services | Volkswagen Group of America

Hahn and his team have demonstrated a commitment to efficiency and cost savings by learning from others in the industry and implementing best practices. One example is their response to the changing demands in the workspace at VW’s headquarters. Recognizing the need to adapt to the new normal in the post-COVID era, Hahn consolidated three facilities into one, resulting in significant cost savings. However, with employees now returning to work, he faces the challenge of adjusting to the evolving demands of the workforce. 

“We had initially designed for a hybrid work experience, but management’s desire for employees to be physically present in the office has prompted us to consider whether to revert to a traditional workstation environment or maintain a collaborative, casual workplace,” Hahn tells Blueprint during an interview in late March.  

Challenges of hybrid work 

The company’s current policy requires employees to be on-site in an office three times per week, though specific days on which people work in person are not defined.  

The COVID-19 pandemic provided the perfect opportunity for Volkswagen, which also owns the Bentley and Porsche, to move into a smaller facility because it doesn’t need as many seats available to workers daily.  

Christopher Hahn | Director, Real Estate & Facility Services | Volkswagen Group of America

“The whole design of the Reston, Virginia, facility was based on non-assigned seating for workstations and offices,” Hahn explains. “You book your seat for a day in advance, and because we’re not reaching 100 percent capacity, we can seat everybody each day.”  

However, this flexibility also presented challenges, particularly in managing capacity, as more employees opted to come in for the designated three days a week. Surveys and feedback mechanisms became crucial tools for gauging employee expectations and adjusting policies accordingly. Through this iterative process, Hahn and his team were able to strike a balance that accommodated varying work preferences while ensuring a productive and engaging work environment. 

Hahn says Wednesday ae the busiest in-office day, with about 95 percent of the seats filled. Tuesdays and Thursdays see between 70 and 75 percent capacity, and seats on Mondays are about 50 percent occupied. Not surprisingly, Fridays have the lowest occupancy rate of about 15 percent.  

“I believe more and more colleagues will return more frequently to the office, but there will continue to be flexibility on Mondays and Fridays,” Hahn says.  

Keeping things moving 

In addition to the changes at VW’s headquarters, Hahn is also focused on supporting the company’s factory growth in the U.S. He recognizes the importance of bringing teams closer to the factories to enhance collaboration and problem-solving. By consolidating and streamlining facilities, like in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Hahn ensures that teams have easier access to each other, enabling them to work more efficiently. This proximity facilitates seamless coordination between departments and reduces the need for multiple time zone calls. 

Christopher Hahn | Director, Real Estate & Facility Services | Volkswagen Group of America

Volkswagen is committed to building more electric vehicles, and growing its EV lineup requires investing in new battery facilities and factories in the U.S. and Canada.  

“We’re fully engaged in electrification and autopilot driving,” Hahn says.  

The company has test facilities in Tennessee and California and a Gigafactory in Canada. There are also factories in Mexico that will build electric and combustion-engine cars.  

“The challenge is the infrastructure,” Hahn says. “Like we’re fully committed to EV, the governments should also be fully committed to ensuring we have the necessary infrastructure in place.” 

Showing VW love 

As a third-generation automotive professional, Hahn’s passion for the industry shines through in his commitment to driving innovation and excellence in real estate and facility services. With a keen eye on the future of electric vehicles and a dedication to creating dynamic work environments, Hahn exemplifies the visionary leadership propelling Volkswagen towards a sustainable and innovative future. 

Hahn was born and raised in Germany and earned an MBA from Business School Lausanne. He has been with Volkswagen for nearly 30 years, first working in Brazil in the company’s finance department, where he performed product and sales control.  

Back in Germany, Hahn ran a center region before moving to the U.S. in 2007 to do project work, including leading the company’s headquarters relocation from Michigan to Virginia. He took over the company’s real estate operation in 2018. 

Christopher Hahn | Director, Real Estate & Facility Services | Volkswagen Group of America

“What’s made my life so interesting is that I’ve worked in different roles on three continents,” Hahn says. “Moving our HQ got me into the real estate mix by looking at our portfolio and properties.” 

Over the years, Hahn says he has appreciated the different clientele and colleagues’ diverse opinions and perspectives across Volkswagen’s operations. That and the uniqueness of his work have helped ensure that no two days are the same. 

“One of the great advantages of working in real estate is that a space/project is never really completed. There is always a way to improve it,” Hahn says.  

View this feature in the Blueprint Vol. IV 2024 Edition here.

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