Born in the canton of Lucerne in 1949, Hansjürg Schnider has fond memories of his apprenticeship at Automontage Schinznach. It made him who he is today and transformed him into a meticulous specialist.
Mr Schnider, you trained as an apprentice at Automontage Schinznach. When was that?
Hansjürg Schnider: I was trained as a panel beater at Automontage from 1966 to 1970. The apprentices in our year first underwent nine months of theoretical and practical training in Othmarsingen. We met up every morning in Schinznach and were taken to Othmarsingen by bus. We were picked up and taken back to Schinznach again for lunch and in the evening.
What happened after your basic training?
We were scattered throughout Automontage and remained at each workstation for a few months until we rotated and had ultimately been everywhere. I spent six months in the body shop, for example. I liked it best of all there, because you were involved in finishing the vehicles by polishing them and carrying out a final inspection as well as repairing beautiful cars. It was exciting in the upholstery shop, too. That was where we put the headliner and the seats together. It was all done manually. The American cars that left Automontage were moving armchairs, but we also fitted out the interiors of VWs for the post office and the army. We only installed the sunroof for the Dodge Dart and the Dodge Valiant to order. We were particularly proud of that.
How would you describe the key elements of the training?
Essentially, we learned to work cleanly, precisely and meticulously. The result was that the cars that were assembled in Schinznach were of better quality than those that were imported directly. We also had to clean and keep everything tidy, but everyone helped one other. Cleanliness was particularly important. We each had to document what we had learned and worked on in a diary. These entries were checked once a week. If anything wasn’t in order or was incomplete, we had to put something into the communal fund.
You’re originally from the canton of Lucerne. How did you come to do your apprenticeship in Schinznach?
I must have been a bit special. At that time, my family was living in Horw. When my parents accompanied a couple who were friends of theirs to Schinznach because they wanted to buy a car there, my mother saw that panel beater apprentices were being recruited. She told me about it, I applied and was taken on as an apprentice. While I was doing my apprenticeship, I took rooms during the week – first in Schinznach, then in Habsburg and finally in Dürrenäsch.
What memories do you associate with your time at Automontage?
The atmosphere at the company was very family-like. The Director at that time, Willy Huter, was very strict, but fair, cordial and helpful. He was a really great man and was like a father to us. The training was also interesting and instructive, and the time I spent in Schinznach was a good school of life.
Can you still remember what you were paid as an apprentice?
Of course, down to the last centime. During the first year of our apprenticeship, we were paid 35 centimes per hour for a 10-hour working day. That went up to 50 centimes in the second year, 75 centimes in the third year and 1 franc per hour in the fourth year of training. Whoever got good grades had the same wage paid into a savings account, which you could only close after completing your apprenticeship. In the second year of our apprenticeship, we were sent on a paid one-week skiing trip to the Hoch-Ybrig region. I can still recall a joint trip to the Rigi and the Verkehrshaus museum in Lucerne, too.
Did you continue working at Automontage after your apprenticeship?
No, that wasn’t possible. Directly following my apprenticeship, I worked in a body shop in Pratteln. Then I went to the French-speaking part of Switzerland for a few months before finding a job in Lucerne. After that, I drove lorries for a while and was on the road in Spain, Portugal and Morocco. Finally, from 1983 onward, I worked in the insurance industry, where I remained for 36 years until I retired.
Do you still have any ties with AMAG?
The former Automontage Schinznach apprentices have been meeting up since 2010. Since then, our year has been getting together every three years. Before that, I hadn’t seen any of them since completing my apprenticeship. Unfortunately, a few of our colleagues have already passed away. And I’m already driving my ninth Audi. In total, I’ve done over two million kilometres with my Audis.