What manufacturing engineers call the validation phase of the assembly line process for the Chevrolet Volt passed a milestone last week when the first pre-production Volt rolled off the line.
Assembly workers at the Detroit Hamtramck Assembly Plant, will build more pre-production Volt sedans in the coming months. These vehicles will be examined by GM and supplier engineers as the plant prepares to build retail models later this year.
Also under scrutiny will be how well workers can perform their tasks, and whether there are potential quality or human factors issues that need to be worked out before retail models are built.
The pre-production versions of the Volt will not be sold at dealerships, but will be used to assure all steps in the production system will meet the quality targets set by the Volt engineering team.
The Volt, since it is largely a new design vehicle, with virtually all new processes and components, would present a quality challenge for any maker. Early Volt models will be closely scrutinized by industry observers as an indicator of GM manufacturing ability, and as symbol of GM’s ability to come back from its bankruptcy.
Conventional Japanese manufacturing techniques, widely acknowledged as resulting in the highest quality vehicles in the world, typically rejects as many changes as are required to build a Volt. It is almost unheard of for Honda or Toyota, for example to build all-new, all-new, as in new vehicle and new processes.
GM is now slowly embracing the methods, after rejecting them for decades as its quality and market share declined. However, the nature of the Volt as a breakthrough vehicle precludes their use.
“We have a very experienced workforce at this plant and through all of their preparation and training workers here have been given the privilege to take GM into the future with this car,” said Detroit-Hamtramck plant manager Teri Quigley.
The Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle is designed to provide 40 miles of pure electric driving before an engine-generator kicks in to sustain the battery charge and extend the range to about 300 additional miles. It is expected to sell for $40,000 before taxpayer subsidies of $7,500.