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September 19, 2016

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Seeing is believing at SAIC-General Motors plant

WHAT are SAIC-General Motors’ cars made of?

When the company recently held a factory tour for its 2016 Open Day in Wuhan, Hubei Province, it expected the 160 visitors it received to find the answer themselves seeing its fast-paced and intelligent work behind the scene.

As the fourth manufacturing base of SAIC-General Motors, the factory represents the company’s expansion toward China’s vast central and western regions. Built upon an initial investment of 7 billion yuan (US$1.1 billion) with another 7.5 billion yuan to follow, it is ramping up its annual manufacturing capacity beyond its first stage of 240,000 units.

Having just churned out its 500,000th car in its 19th month of operation, which sets a new record for China’s auto industry, SAIC-General Motors’ factory in Wuhan now sees one car born nearly every minute.

It is where SAIC-General Motors’ hot-selling Buick Excelle GT has been built, and its newly launched Chevrolet Cavalier will call home. It is where precision manufacturing is combined with innovative engineering to make quality mid-size sedans for the general public, and the general public are welcomed to witness the whole process up close and personal.

SAIC-General Motors is a trendsetter of public engagement at grassroots level among China’s auto factories. Be it customers, employees’ families, car enthusiasts, students or just someone with a curious mind, they are all encouraged to sign up for its Open Day program. Now in its third year, it organizes guided tours of SAIC-General Motors’ factories and facilities across the country.

It once opened up the company’s highly classified Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center to shed some light on what makes good car design. Recently in Wuhan, it walked visitors through an awe-inspiring process of carmaking with demonstrations of high automation and professionalism.

“This field trip is an enlightening experience for me to see the latest technology and trend in the auto industry,” said Yang Jian, a student from Wuhan University of Technology. “Intelligent manufacturing is the key to overtaking.”

Boasting of the highest automation rate among all of its workshops, the body shop at SAIC-General Motors’ factory bustles with autonomous-driving vehicles for auto parts logistics, and 514 working robots.

Within seconds, the robotic arms can take care of 232 spots for welding in a car. And it is the first of SAIC-General Motors’ manufacturing bases to adopt its latest plasma arc welding technique, which finishes two to three times faster, and narrows the welding seam by two-thirds for car doors.

At the assembly shop, where various pieces are put together by workers with the help of robotic hands, all 136 work stations are designed with ergonomics in mind. For chassis assembly, a critical factor of precision that affects a car’s function and safety, it is as accurate as 0.1mm.

The final quality control is comprehensive, and strict with a scientific approach. To name just a few, a 3D laser scanner is used for wheel alignment, and the rubber seal is put under a grueling test of water splashes. Up to 360 sprayers are lined up to produce a downpour of five tons of water within 90 seconds, which is 4 times stronger than the world’s heaviest rainfall. And all the dynamic performance data, with precise simulation of steering, braking, and central control in real life, are stored in General Motors’ database for review throughout a car’s life.

It is all those thoughts and efforts that make the Buick Excelle GT and Chevrolet Cavalier what they are — reassuring choices. And there is probably nothing more persuasive than seeing them being made with your own eyes.


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