By Rhoda Miel, Plastics News
Traverse City, Michigan -- BMW AG may be tapping into new materials for its future carbon fibre bodied MGV electric vehicle. But that doesn't mean the company has to reinvent how to build a car.
"It's like the commercial says, parts are parts," said Richard Morris, vice president of assembly for BMW's Spartanburg, South Carolina assembly operations BMW Manufacturing Co.
While Morris said during a question and answer session at the Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City on 2 Aug that he is not directly involved in any of the MGV decisions, he expects the plant will treat carbon fibre the same way it does other existing composite parts on its cars.
BMW's X5 has composite front fenders that are delivered to the line and bolted into place. The same is true for composite fenders on the 6 Series cars and the M3's carbon fibre roof.
"I wouldn't anticipate it being any different than that," he said. "It would be bolting on body panels from a supplier in the assembly hall."
Material selection will be important in future vehicles, added Norm Bafunno, vice president production engineering for Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America. The easier it is to drop new materials into the existing line, the better for carmakers.
"If it can follow a similar paint path or a similar weld path, then we think we're ready for that," he said. "As those types of technologies emerge that are going to be different form the type of welding or paint processing that we do today, then we're going to have to second look."
But even cars that are changing the auto landscape will still fit comfortably into the existing manufacturing system.
Nissan Motor Co. Ltd will even make its all-electric Leaf on the same line at its Smyrna, Tennessee, plant that makes the Maxima and Altima sedans. Complete battery packs made by Nissan at a new plant adjacent to the assembly line will be delivered in a just-in-time basis at just the right point, said Susan Brennan, vice president of manufacturing for Smyrna and Decherd, Tennessee.
"Where we install the fuel tank [for the conventional vehicles], we will install the battery. Where we [install] the engine, that's where the Leaf gets its motor," she said. "One line, multiple products, flexible manufacturing."