Like Build-A-Bear for Adults
A few years ago we had the opportunity to participate in the assembly of a Corvette LS9 6.2-liter, supercharged engine at the 100,000-square-foot General Motors Performance Build Center (PBC) in Wixom, Michigan.
Needless to say, we were under close supervision.
Rich McBride, skilled engine builder at the GM Performance Build Center—one of the guys who help neophyte engine builders build their own Corvette engines. (Photo by John F. Martin for Chevrolet)
Needless to say, part two, no one ever got the engine we built; it was promptly disassembled.
But it was an interesting experience, to say the very least.
And now GM is making it available to buyers of 2011 Corvette Z06 and ZR1s. In fact, it is an option, sort of like floor mats, but in this case a $5,800 option.
When the customer checks that box, the dealer contacts Chevy, and then a “special concierge” contacts the customer to make the specific arrangements for the build at PBC.
Everything you need to build an LS9 engine. You can also build an LS7 at the PBC.
When the Corvette customer arrives at the PBC, she or he literally hand builds the engine (either an LS7 or LS9)—with close supervision and assistance where required—for her or his car. The assembled engine, with the individual’s name on a plate that’s affixed to it, is shipped to the Corvette assembly plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky, to be put in the specific car.
While a few manufacturers offer plant tours, Chevy is taking it to a whole new level.
Paul Spadafora, chief engineer, Cadillac XT5, had, in his estimation, a fantastic opportunity as he and his team set about to develop Cadillac’s all-new midsize crossover vehicle for a number of reasons, one of which is the simple fact that this is one of the hottest segments going in the auto industry, so if you want to be in the game, you have to play hard against the likes of the Audi Q5 and the Mercedes GLE-Class.
Here's an overview of the study of assembly plant productivity that gets the undivided attention of all automakers: "The Harbour Report." Although the Big Three companies are getting better, they still have a way to go. But given the levels of competition, better won't be good enough for some plants, it seems.
Imagine having an idea that is transformed without a whole lot of modification into a series of cars rolling off the assembly line. BMW's Anders Warming is one of the few who have had that experience.