Disclaimer:- The visit for arranged as a owner of a XUV 5OO and was not a media visit
It took me a little while to get to this writeup, its nearly a week now since the Chakan Factory trip. Chakan is also known as the Detroit of the east with plenty of automobile makers huddled together and several suppliers in the vicinity.
I got called last week whether I would be interested to visit and explore the XUV 5OO production line to which I promptly replied why not! The visit for arranged as part of the Purple Club for some XUV owners, the first of its kind as far as XUV owners go. Ohh by the way i did reach late about 45 mins but thankfully the session hadnt started
The agenda was :-
1) A Short presentation showcasing XUV 5OO from the marketing honchos
3) Factory tour
4) Conclusion/ Feedback session
The above is all the good part, the bad part being no photography allowed in the plant
. So sorry about this part folks, there was an official photographer, if they share those pics with me Ill put on here.
My personal agenda was to seek as much know how on whats happening generally in the production line and where are Mahindra with the initial niggles. Presentation
The event formally started with Mr. Manoj Tripathi (DGM Marketing) doing a presentation on the XUV journey so far and its achievements. The presentation mainly covered the following :- 1) What did the XUV brought in to the market as a game changer for Mahindra(The Many Firsts)
My Reading :- XUV indeed as a global SUV for Mahindra was far and beyond what Mahindra had done in the past - it was a challenge unlike any other before. Their legacy of tractors and old school SUVs means they indeed had to think radically for this product 2) About the Future Ready Chakan Plant
My Reading :- This is one hell of an asset they have created, they have enough space to expand and the factory is indeed state of art with a lot of robotics, assets have been sourced from atleast a dozen different countries. 700 acres of space, they can do a lot more here. 3) About the innovative marketing strategy pre launch and thereafter
My Reading :- This is what gave Mahindra the edge and the hype in the digital age, with Anand Mahindra himself responding twitter requests and a customer service/RM concept the likes of which hasnt been seen normally with Indian manufacturers. This will be a good marketing case study eventually. This also saved them as they gave a prompt response to deal with initial niggles.
After this there was a lunch break with lunch sourced from Sayaji, Pune.
We began the factory tour thereby, it was all well planned with buses arranged to move between the various shops, there were floor walks arranged in all the shop - 700 humans and 25 robots overall form the lineup, well the instructions were not to click any photos inside the plant i did however manage to click a few standing outside(technically speaking). The same assembly line is used for export models including their homologation aspects :- 1) Press Shop :-
The press shop is where raw sheets are converted to body panels, in the interest of time they focused on the door and it was fascinating to see automated process of sheet fed in from one end and unpainted doors coming out the other end, the QC that goes in to it and the automation was tremendous. It could spit out some 15 doors per minute(or something like that). All the metal body panels are pressed here with steel sourced locally and also from abroad.
As its the first monocoque from M&M i am sure they faced many challenges, the modern design as opposed stiff upper lip designs that they are normally used to doesnt come easy. They chose a very young team for the very reason. Apparently the average age of XUV production employees is under 30.
Most of the R&D happened in their chennai facility with about 250 odd engineers. 2) Body Shop :-
This is shop where the robots and humans put together the body shell. Several state of art robots doing laser welding and likes of it was fascinating. There are apparently around 25 robots overall in the production line and some firsts among indian production lines like teeth power honing and Poka Yoke approaches. It was array of humans and robots welding and putting together the body in tandem, with sparks flying around it was fun to watch. Keeping an eye on the intricate stuff a robot was doning was the hard task as it moved pretty quickly and its programmed for efficiency and precise movement. A lot of hitech japanese tech.
I saw the fascinating monocoque shell here, the only plastic item in this shop is the front tire fenders which are plastic/fibre to cater to EU regulations.
From here it goes the paint shop and then moves to the assembly shop for putting it all together. 3) Assembly shop
We didnt do the paint shop and my guess is because of the chemical nature of that process and health and safety reasons. The assembling shop was headed by guy called Nitin, great chap with loads of technical knowledge, had fun interacting with him. This is where the final assembling is done, glass goes on to the body, dashboard is put in, engine is dropped in, seats, clutch,brakes, gearbox goes in, doors are fitted etc. Btw
engines arent made here but made at the nasik plant and transported here. Most of the direct suppliers supply their parts to this shop. 1 XUV rolls out every 4 mins from here.
After this we moved back in the VIP lounge for refreshments and informal chatter and this is where there was a lot of feedback passed and insights gained, let me try and address some issues which got a lot of negative chatter early on(some the truth and the other mere hearsay as with most things) :- 1) Brakes :-
This was probably their achilles heel, I questioned the technical guys directly and head on this and they admitted that there RWUP (Real world User parameters ) were slightly off the mark, hence while test data conformed to their range, real world situation was different. I asked them again if the problem is solved for good now (as i had received new discs last week) or is it still being experimented - the response was clear its solved. There is no noise now and the braking is much better, i compared my new discs to the ones being rolled out in the production line and they were exactly the same. So i think this chapter is closed, but i will continue to monitor however. 2) Power Steering Issues :-
All the reported steering failures were caused due to a leak developed in the power steering pipe and owners not realising the power steering fluids are all gone and continuing driving to death. Older XUVs (including mine) have got a new replacement which has resolved the problem. So chapter closed here as well. 3) Clutch issues :
- This was something they found pretty early on due to the design of the clutch plate and was promptly replaced proactively in many cases, there are no further reports of problems after this. 4) Software issues :-
Initial XUV owners including me got several updates due to inconsistent software, several parameters were updated and with version 4 there are no issues reported, though some usability aspects are being considered in the feedbacks.
Generally my trust in the vehicle further increased tremendously as having seen many of the parts in isolation gives you that confidence. There was a lot of chatter about chinese parts and quality which are quite simply unfounded and untrue. Parts have been sourced from across the globe - i remember atleast 6-7 countries mentioned.
I also gave them a lot of feedback generally and suggested them to engage customers as part of testing at some stage to further help them isolate niggles early on than at the expense of early customers. In a manufacturing process as complex as this some early niggles are inevitable though, we need to also understand that. This applies to all international manufacturers as well.
At the end they gifted us a nice XUV 5OO Celebration Book, a detailed book entailing journey from concept to launch. Its one of the best pictures i have seen in print material. Great stuff to read as well. I am attaching a few as snaps, the snap quality might not do justice to the book quality. Sorry about that. But the insights in the book were great, who knew the XUV was originally planned to have a V6 petrol , it could still make its way to some export model if not india the book hints
Some renderings, this back side one actually looks better than the production version IMHO
The waterfall inspired dash
Graphite, Mica and crytalline formations inspired dash
When the project was visualized 4 years back, the idea was to create a replacement model for scorpio, however as scorpio sales were steady Mahindra decided to position this one level up
Testing Images claiming 2.5 millions kms of testing, also the crash test images
Assembly line robots - mostly japanese