From a Sketch to a Manufactured Vehicle all Under One Roof
Article by Isabella Aldridge | August 15th 2017
Before designers’ sketches have even evolved into clay models, research is conducted to collect, analyze and integrate the voice of the customer into a new vehicle concept. A “customer first” approach to quality keeps the customers’ needs at the forefront of decision-making and planning through all stages of vehicle development.
Much of the vehicle development process occurs at the Chrysler Technology Center (CTC) in the Auburn Hills, the Michigan–based headquarters for FCA US. With approximately 14,000 employees under one roof, it is the only automotive headquarters in the world where vehicles can go from the sketch stage to prototype vehicles that are manufactured and subjected to extensive engine, driveline durability and performance testing as well as wind tunnel aerodynamic/acoustic development and extreme weather validation all under one roof.
Going the extra mile
Some of the most punishing vehicle tests at CTC involve the Road Test Simulator (RTS), also known by its well-earned nickname “The Shaker.” It recreates the abuse vehicles endure at the hands of a 95th percentile customer – meaning a customer who drives the vehicle in more severe conditions than 95 percent of all drivers. The Shaker mimics a wide range of on-road and off-road driving surfaces and puts a lifetime of wear and tear on a vehicle in only one month’s time.
The thousands of simulated and laboratory tests conducted at CTC set the foundation for the regimented reliability, capability and durability testing that continues at FCA’s proving grounds around the world.
In addition to the extensive testing facilities at the proving grounds in Chelsea, Michigan, and Balocco, Italy, the Company also conducts extreme weather testing at FCA’s Arizona Proving Grounds in Yucca and the Arjeplog (Sweden) Proving Grounds within the Arctic Circle. At the Company’s Florida Evaluation Center in Naples, vehicles undergo coast-down testing to assess overall frictional drag, aerodynamics and tire rolling resistance.
Engineering and Quality teams also study how vehicles perform in less predictable environments. Reliability test fleet vehicles are driven day and night on all kinds of public road surfaces, at high and low altitudes and through blizzard conditions, as well as dry, desert heat and hot, humid locations all over the globe.
Building quality into each vehicle
Since 2009, FCA US has announced significant investments in its manufacturing facilities, making substantial progress to enhance quality, efficiency, safety and technology in its plants. Supported by World Class Manufacturing (WCM) principles, workers play an integral role in ensuring success and reducing warranty repairs.
Inside an assembly plant’s Quality Assurance Center, randomly selected vehicles undergo audits and detailed technical measurements on more than 400 vehicle functions, such as heating, cooling, emissions, and fit-and-finish. FCA US assembly plants also employ state-of-the-art metrology centers–a high-tech laboratory with a clean-room environment. The metrology labs use laser scanners and a complex set of fixtures that mimic the body shop’s process so that engineers and technicians can find the root cause of any build variations ? even when components appear perfect to the naked eye. All these tools are used to find and resolve any issues before vehicles are shipped to dealers.
Quality development at FCA US prioritizes customers’ needs with the goal of designing and building vehicles owners will be proud to recommend to their friends and family.
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