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Blue Angel,
Thank you so much for such a detailed response. Very well done! Yeah, I was thinking service life.

My other question would be, an I know that in this day with shrinking suppliers and cost cutting it is tougher, if it is found that there are to many rejections due to defects of a certain part or early failure out in the field with the customer, does most components have more than one supplier? I understand how horrendous it would be to have to stop an entire line because of one part. I think the Dodge Dart just had that problem on their line a couple weeks ago. I think it was a supplier problem getting them seats or something.

On a side note, the other major trouble area seems to be software and programming related, and this is for all manufacturers. Getting the right algorithms and programming for all the powertrain components seems to be tougher than one thinks, especially for all the varying driving styles and environmental conditions. Nowadays even the radio and climate control can have software related problems, revisions and re-flashes.

Thanks for your response, I appreciate this site and it's knowledgeable members!
No problem! It’s fun to share experiences. Obermd covered the software part of your post, I’ll cover the rest.
As far as service life goes, I’m trying to remember the exact terminology used… When we were doing cycle testing on our durability fixtures (windows up and down in a real sheet metal door to test seal abrasion resistance) we had to stop the test every so many cycles and document wear and material transfer. The term “Service Life” seems pretty close if I remember right, basically a number estimated by GM as the cycle count of the average window in a car at the hands of the average driver for a predetermined number of years. Then that average number is multiplied by a factor of X to make sure that the parts are design capable of exceeding requirements.

I also did an apprenticeship during college working in a durability testing facility for another large (HUGE actually) automotive supplier. The main thing tested in that department is latches (door, hood and trunk). You know the little glow in the dark trunk release handles inside many trunks now? They were testing the first ones while I was there.

The main thing I did was operate and monitor door latch cycling fixtures. These were large steel frames with heavy duty hinged door replicas, designed to imitate a specific car door in the real world (same length, weight and moment of inertia as the real door assembly), and a spring load is placed on the door to simulate the seal load - the outboard load placed on the door by the body and door seals. The whole thing is run off of a dedicated computer and PLC control, everything is actuated using pneumatic cylinders, and all motions are checked by proximity sensors. The door is opened against a spring which is calibrated to store a specified amount of “slam energy” (the minimum door closing energy specified by the customer) then released. Swinging shut, the door inertia has to overcome the calibrated seal load and the latch has to latch the door closed properly. Another cylinder locks and unlocks the latch (with a door opening attempt while locked), then the latch is released and the process starts over again.

The force required to unlatch the door (representing how hard you would have to pull on the door handle to open the door) was monitored using load cells and this was basically the pass/fail criteria were looking for, not actually a latch that failed to open (that would have taken FAR longer to validate, door latches are designed very carefully in that regard). These tests were done at ambient temperatures, as well as freeeezing cold (-40C) and unbearably hot and humid (80C at up to 90% RH!). These environmental conditions are based on memory going back 12 years or so… I may be off a bit, but not much. If you were working on a fixture in the hot chamber and set a wrench down for more than a few minutes it was too hot to pick up again with bare hands. We wore hooded winter parkas inside those chambers to keep us COOL.

The latches I was testing at that time were for Ford, and a few times the Ford Engineers would come in to look at latches that were failing the opening effort criteria and I would help them dismantle a latch and look inside at what was happening. As an apprentice, this was my first real eye opener as far as the world of automotive QC was concerned… so much effort, so much expense, so much testing, all to make sure the effort to open a door latch doesn’t exceed a certain amount to keep the customer happy. Yes, there is a safety aspect to this also, but the primary target was making the efforts “feel” right to the customer throughout the service life of the part. It is absolutely no wonder then, that car companies building cars on a much smaller scale (think high dollar supercars) utilise so many components from mass-market cars… they simply wouldn’t have the budget to fully develop mundane parts like door latches.

As far as parts being supplied by multiple sources, I’m sure that common hardware items like clips and fasteners would have multiple sources, but for vehicle specific parts I’m only aware of single source suppliers. Yes, the risk is higher when you put all of your eggs in one basket, but there simply isn’t the time or budget during a car launch to tool-up multiple suppliers for the same part. As far as I know, in many cases GM actually owns the tooling that the supplier uses to produce the parts (GM pays for tool development during the car launch). This allows them to “re-source” the parts from a different supplier should a lower bid come along to steal the business away from the current supplier, and they just hand the tooling over. This may sound a bit brutal, but it is a way for GM and other car companies to keep suppliers in line; there’s no way you would expect to charge them way more than it costs to make the part since some other company could offer to do it for less and take the business away from you. Make no mistake, automotive supply is a tough highly competitive business to be in. BUT, this is basically a reflection of how tough it is for a company like GM to stay competitive in the market while still making a profit on their vehicles.
 

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As far as I know, in many cases GM actually owns the tooling that the supplier uses to produce the parts (GM pays for tool development during the car launch).
This may also be part of the reason the US Government decided to keep GM and Chrysler in business. I know there was a serious concern amongst US policy makers as well as competing auto manufacturers that allowing either GM or Chrysler to fail would have had a huge domino effect on the entire car industry in the country making it much harder for any car manufacturer to build cars here.
 

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...allowing either GM or Chrysler to fail would have had a huge domino effect on the entire car industry in the country making it much harder for any car manufacturer to build cars here.
Yep... these companies are absolutely massive, and allowing one of them to go under would send a blast wave right through the manufacturing world, not only in North America but globally as well. Financial support for these two giants was a necessary step for a lot of reasons, many of which I and most people cannot comprehend.

The following is only my opinion and is based soley on the limited reading I've done (so your mileage may vary). If the analysts numbers are correct, the US Gov't currently has about $15.6 Billion invested in GM (based on current stock price, Chrysler's loans have been repaid), but keeping the two companies alive saved roughly 1.5 Million jobs... that's about $10,400 per job saved. Since the average person employed by GM/Chrysler pays more than that in taxes every year, that's a pretty good return on investment I'd say (once again, my opinion only - take it for what it's worth).

That ROI gets better if GM's stock price rises before US Treasury Board sells it. Finance numbers above sourced here:

GM shuns political poster child role, bans candidate visits until after Election Day | General Motors news | Detroit Free Press | freep.com
 

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Discussion Starter #105 (Edited)
Xtreme what were you most impressed with and did you talk to any actual workers who bulid our cars?
The degree of precision, quality control, and error protection in the Flint engine plant. I didn't get to talk to any actual workers.
 

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Wow, this is a such a thorough and well presented thread. It is almost like a documentary (that more people need to see!). I know so many people who talk **** about GM and American cars / automakers / products that could use a dose of reality. *Inserts on facebook page*
 

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Impressive! How do you guys get invited to these thing ? Are you guys moderators and contacted GM or did they contact you?
 

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Discussion Starter #108 (Edited)
Impressive! How do you guys get invited to these thing ? Are you guys moderators and contacted GM or did they contact you?
I've been working with Tom for a while on various powertrain related issues with the Cruze behind the scenes, the most significant of which was the spark plug gap issue. Based on my knowledge and understanding, Tom made the invitation, and I accepted. For the tour at Lordstown, I asked if I could bring Ryan along, since he was nearby and had been helping us quite a bit with some more technical insight.
 

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What a great thread! Thank you so much for doing this! It may not seem like it now, but these pictures will be invaluable in a few years when this generation is no longer produced or possibly even farther out when the Cruze is no longer in production. In my Sunline RV forum, we had a member take a whole bunch of pictures when he went to see his trailer being built back in 2006. It was the most number of pictures I ever saw of the plant (even though I had been myself in person), and they have been a real blessing since the company shut down just two short months after his pictures were taken.

I would be interested in hearing if there was a group Lordstown tour sometime too.

I too work for a supplier to the big 3, supplying aluminum wheels. We don't do any Cruze wheels at the moment, but they had a connection at Lordstown from the past. He got involved when I needed the GSU code for buying mine, but he hasn't responded to any of my questions since, including one about that yellow shipping form. I know it is really hard to make reliable connections too, and it's great when people are as excited about what they do as the enthusiasts are.

Thank you, Mr. Read, for the opportunity to share the great things you guys do!
 

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Discussion Starter #110
I don't think anything that he took pics of is anything that would be considered that secretive.

If you've watched some of the documentaries that I cited in high def (e.g. Camaro and Volt assembly), you can see a lot of detail as well.
That's correct. This is nothing you couldn't "reverse engineer" by having the actual motor in your hands. Pictures won't make the slightest difference. However, what I couldn't take pictures of was anything inside the Powertrain Headquarters. That place was full of developmental engines, transmissions, and powertrain components. Nothing I recognized, but certainly nothing I could take pictures of.
 

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Great thread! It was great to see how my car was built, and this pride of U.S. built cars is inspirational. I've had Subarus, Hondas, and VWs. But now I have two Dodges and a Chevy Cruze. It feels good to not own any foreign brands anymore and I think I kicked that habit for good. It seems to me that GM, Dodge/Chrysler, and Ford have all stepped up their game these last few years. It's great to see American car companies turning out cars that surpass the foreign nameplates in quality, looks, and performance. I'm very impressed with my '12 Cruze and test drove just about every other comparable offering on the market (except for Kia, I'll never go there). The Cruze beat them all in my humble opinion, and seeing the photos and write up from the 1.4T engine plant and Cruze assembly plant just reaffirms that GM has a great car on their hands.

Thanks to the guys at the Cruze plant who made your tour possible. Seeing GM embrace their enthusiastic believers like this is incredible. Way to go GM.
 

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If the analysts numbers are correct, the US Gov't currently has about $15.6 Billion invested in GM (based on current stock price, Chrysler's loans have been repaid),
...

That ROI gets better if GM's stock price rises before US Treasury Board sells it. Finance numbers above sourced here:

GM shuns political poster child role, bans candidate visits until after Election Day | General Motors news | Detroit Free Press | freep.com
From the article you cite, $26.2 billion is still owed to the government. This is close to the $26.4 billion cited at Government Motors: Why Won't D.C. Sell Its GM Stock? - DailyFinance

If the government were to sell all its shares on 8/26/12 (when GM closed on 8/24/12 at $21.18/share), per the article you cited:
And judging by Friday's close of $21.18, the government would lose $15.6 billion on the bailout if it sold its 500.1 million shares.
There's also no way they could dump that many shares in a day. The stock would plummet. Just at a brief glance, I haven't seen a single day where over 60 million shares traded. Typical daily volume looks like ~10 million shares.
 

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Automotive manufacturing is a MASSIVE undertaking that the general public is completely incapable of comprehending. That is not meant to be a derogatory comment, it is however a FACT. As much of a car person as I have always been, before I worked in automotive I used to wonder how a car company could justify charging so much for a car. After seeing what I’ve seen it’s a wonder they can turn a profit. Hundreds of thousands of vehicles are sold before a car company ever sees a payback for the initial investment of developing a new car like the Cruze, hence the push towards commonisation and global development.

A Car Assembly Plant (CAP) process is a massive machine that requires a perfect coordination of hundreds-of-thousands of variables to operate smoothly and turn out a quality product. When you take into consideration the Just In Time supply chain as well as all of the inconsistency introduced by the imperfect fleshy human beings that this huge undertaking depends on, it is an absolute wonder of the modern world that a car-a-minute can be pumped out the business end of a CAP with high quality, consistency and reliability.
I've never worked in automotive but agree completely. The amount of engineering effort, coordination, testing, administrative overheard, certification, documentation, etc. that goes into designing, engineering then building and supporting a car is HUGE. Big automakers can at least amortize the cost over many vehicles and multiple models. This is why it's very tough for low volume automakers to turn a profit and stay in business, unless they sell something for a lot of money (but then it must be competitive against other vehicles from bigger automakers in that price range).

I think that companies like Fisker and Coda will go under. Tesla's not turned a single profit yet.
 

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Xtreme thank you so much for this inside look! My mind is just blown and I have a better understanding of the process my own car went through to get to me!
Tom Read and others at GM if you see my post thank you for your dilligence to quality and precision, thank you for your dedication and commitment, and mostly thank you all for the car that I drive on a daily basis. I cant tell you all enough how much I enjoy it!
 

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Reading this thread kinda put a downer on my perspective. on how the cruze is built.

Ive been to the honda plant where they build the civic and the toyota plant where the build the corolla and matrix.

Dont get me wrong its nice to see how the cars are made, but there arn't at all different or better than the oposition!
 

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Discussion Starter #120
Reading this thread kinda put a downer on my perspective. on how the cruze is built.

Ive been to the honda plant where they build the civic and the toyota plant where the build the corolla and matrix.

Dont get me wrong its nice to see how the cars are made, but there arn't at all different or better than the oposition!
It's not so much the way the cars are assembled; you can only do something so differently, but how they're designed, how the motors are assembled, and what car it is that we're talking about. The new Civic is terrible, and the Corolla is the most dull and boring compact on the road.
 
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