It’s possible that those responsible for Volkswagen’s emissions-cheating software thought it was only a minor transgression, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. Seismic scandals apart, global carmakers like VW constantly have to deal with a lot of small, and to the casual observer, seemingly insignificant things. But this multitude of minutiae adds up to one very important factor in the finished vehicle: quality. OEMs have developed their brands to become a byword for quality in the minds’ of their customers. As such, they go to great lengths to ensure that every vehicle rolling off the line is as perfect in its quality as costs will allow.
The technology feature in our November-December issue focuses on the topic of measurement and quality, looking in detail at the system hardware and software deployed to make sure that every car meets the rigorous standards required. The devil really is in the detail, with pretty much every component subject to scrutiny at some stage. Two of the big challenges have been the integration of accurate measuring systems into the production flow and the increasing use of plastics in the vehicle’s construction. In spite of the advances in equipment technology, the number of recalls we continue to see underlines the scale of the task facing both carmakers and tier suppliers.
From tiny details to rapid growth, this issue’s materials feature reveals just how much the use of composites has grown, with its application in higher-volume vehicle structures particularly notable. OEMs, such as BMW, which have invested heavily in developing composites into a viable, alternative lightweight material are stealing a march on their competitors.
GAZ and Mercedes also come under the spotlight in this edition, with an in-depth report on the Russian carmaker’s manufacturing operations at Nizhny Novgorod and an interview with GAZ president Vadim Sorokin. We also take a look at the big changes at Mercedes’ Ludwigsfelde plant, in the shape of a complete assembly line upgrade. The plant has been piloting an automated line-side logistics system which was developed with significant input from the assembly line workers; another example of the details making all the difference.