A&A UK Cars Dealership  - How all the parts come together to make a car

Cartoon films portray car factories with lumps of raw iron going in one end and gleaming automobiles purring away at the other. It is of course a false image. Cars are not made all in one place. But the reality is scarcely less remarkable, for the process can involve factories all over the world in the making of just one car.

At Saragossa, Spain, where the American company General Motors has a huge assembly line, the steel for the body may come from Spain, the engine from Britain, the suspension units, gearbox and fuel-injection system from Germany, the tyres from France or Italy, the radio from Holland or Japan, with contributions even from Australia and Korea.
Once things were a lot simpler. At the beginning of the century, the first cars were produced much the same way as horse-drawn coaches - with workers wandering around, slowly and expensively hammering metal panels individually onto wooden frames. Although the elements of mass production had long been established for products such as ship's pulleys and guns, it took an organisational genius to apply this to the motor industry Henry Ford.

The first assembly line
In 1903, Ford started to make cars in Detroit. Within three years, he was the largest car producer in the USA. Within five years, he was concentrating on a single model - the Model T - in order to make the best use of his standardised parts.

Then in 1913 he introduced the concept that was to revolutionise car production - the assembly line. This reversed the relationship between worker and product, for now the product rolled past a line of stationary workers, each one of whom did one specific task. When first applied to the making of magnetos, the new process cut assembly time from 20 minutes to five.

Fired by this success, Ford extended the principle to chassis construction. A rope pulled a line of chassis along a track, at which stood 50 workers, each fixing their own allotted part to each chassis as it moved by. Assembly time for a chassis dropped from 12 to one and a half hours.
Commercially, the results were astounding. In less than ten years, the price of a Model T dropped from $850 to $250. Ford sold 1.8 million of them. Profits and wages boomed. Ford Motors led the way again in 1951 by using automatic equipment to produce engine blocks. In 500 distinct operations, 40 machines transformed a rough metal casting into a finished block, reducing production time per engine from several hours to 15 minutes.

The world of robots
The urge to save labour has continued to inspire new developments, with robots replacing workers, cutting out tedious tasks and guaranteeing greater accuracy. On the Fiat Uno, just 30 of the 2700 welds are done by hand. Only specialised crafts, such as electrical wiring, now remain in human hands. In a typical car-assembly plant of the 1980s - such as the Fiat Uno works at Mirafiori or Rivalta, Italy, which produce a total of 3000 cars a day - the first stage involves sheet steel arriving at the press shop. Here, in areas as large as three football stadiums, robot cranes supply rolled sheets of steel to giant stamping machines which cut the pieces of metal to make up the car body.

Manual assembly In 1913, Henry Ford ntroduced assembly lines at his Detroit car factory. Moving belts carried the parts past flywheel mechanics (left), and the engines to Assembly workers (above). By 1915 a ready 2 drive Model T Ford was rolling off the lines very one and a half minutes.

Next, robots build the underbody or floorpan, making numerous welds and creating a complex shape with spaces for wheel arches, boot wells and spare wheels.
At the next stage, large jigs position the body sides and roof to be welded into place automatically. Meanwhile, the doors have been made on nearby assembly lines in a process that involves several different pressings to create an outer skin clinched over an inner frame.
Finally, on advanced assembly lines, lasers check every car body for the smallest distortion or irregularity.


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