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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Thought this was interesting article about how our cars are hand built. As mine is supposed to be done 2/11 was just picturing mine going thru that line. Anyone know what port and shipping line Maserati uses?.

An Italian job
Despite lack of robots, Maserati favors high technology

By James M. Flammang
Special to the Tribune

February 1, 2004

BOLOGNA, Italy -- Fine foods aren't the only products for which this medieval city and its evirons in northern Italy are known. Exotic automobiles run a close second.

Known locally as the Motor Valley, the area near Bologna is headquarters for some of the top exotic marques in the world.

Ferrari is in Maranello. Maserati's facility is in Modena. Lamborghini has its factory in Sant'Agata. Ducati motorcycles are made in Bologna.

But Motor Valley is no Detroit. In crafting these limited-edition exotics, much of the work is done by hand. Maserati has been in business since 1914, started by the Maserati Bros. with racing in mind. At first, they worked on other people's cars. In 1926, they created the first one on their own.

Through a series of sales, Maserati came under control of Ferrari in 1999. Maserati uses no robots in its factory, but plenty of technology is evident on the production route. This plant in Modena turns out Spyder convertibles and GT Coupes, as well as the new Quattroporte sedan, which has a new assembly line. Maserati used to build 500 or 600 cars per year. Now, with new models and expanded export sales, the total is in the thousands.

Maserati does not make its own car bodies; it never did. Bodies are produced by Itcar, in Turin, and painted at the Ferrari facility in Maranello. They arrive at Modena in covered trucks. This is the "first industrial synergy with Ferrari," said Giorgio Manicardi, who spent 35 years as sales manager at Maserati before retiring.

Engines are assembled at Ferrari, too. Each is run at the Maserati plant before installation in the cars, however.

After initial prep work at station zero, the first on the line, wiring takes place at the first station. The car's mechnicals are completed in the first group of work stations, Manicardi said.

An overhead rail conveyor carries each car from one station to the next. Each conveyor unit can elevate and rotate the car 90 degrees, right and left. Ferrari uses a similar setup, but without the rotation.

A rolling trolley near each station holds all parts for a single car. All of the customer's specifications are on a printed sheet. The trolley follows the car as it proceeds down the assembly line. Halfway down the line, the car is raised higher in the air because the next steps are more easily undertaken from below.

A worker has 48 minutes, as shown on a large digital clock positioned overhead, to complete each task along the first 13 stations--the mechanicals--on the Spyder/Coupe line.

If one worker isn't finished when the 48 minutes are up, he or she moves to the next station. "The line will never stop," Manicardi said.

However, workers generally finish three to six minutes in advance, Manicardi said, and can take a short break.

Anyone who's been through traditional car factories would be surprised by the lack of din. "It's always quiet," Manicardi said. "There is no noisy job here. It's everything handmade."

At one spot along the Spyder/Coupe line, several front ends stood idle, with engines installed. These can be used to instruct workers on assembly methods.

After station 13, the car is mechanically finished, but 13 more stations follow. In position 14, glass goes into all the windows. At this point, the car is held up by four stands, a foot or so off the floor. Interior components and upholstery are installed. Maseratis come in 15 body colors and 10 shades of leather.

A trolley continues to follow each car. At station 22, the car is run for the first time, partly "to control the electrical system," Manicardi said.

An illuminated overhead sign at one station advised that some scratches had been found on door bottoms. When this happens, steps are taken to find the cause and make a correction.

At the end (station 26), the car will be pushed out, not run under own power. It goes to another building for final inspections and testing.

"We test every single engine we produce," Manicardi said, first for an hour, then three minutes at maximum power.

Then, the engine is balanced. A computer screen shows the parameters: oil temperature, coolant flow, horsepower and so forth. According to the screen, an engine being tested was running at 7,282 r.p.m. High humidity can limit output by 6 to 8 horsepower.

After full assembly, a "vibrating bridge" is used to test the suspension. It produces several types of bounce, and a computer shows whether the suspension has responded properly. There are the tests for starting, acceleration and braking.

Then, a test driver takes the Maserati on the road. Each Maserati gets driven 70 to 90 miles, around town as well as on the highway.

If the driver finds a problem, from imperfections in the road feel to unwanted noise, the car goes to a special area for remedy.

In the Finishing Department, workers clean off the grease after the road test, wash the car and check for scratches and trouble spots. If scratches are found, it goes to a retoucher.

After all the controls and polishing, each Maserati has an undercarriage cleanup. In the Initial Customer Perception, people with a critical eye go to work, Manicardi said, because the car "must be perfect." At the very end, each car is covered with white film for shipping.

Retail sales begin in Italy in April, and the sedan is scheduled to arrive in the U.S. by summer.

Maserati has 490 employees, and many of the production workers are young, typically in their 20s. After eight months to a year on their first job, they change stations to learn new tasks. Most older workers are now bosses, Manicardi said.

New workers "must have some knowledge concerning mechanics," Manicardi said. Normally, they come from technical school. "We are able to instruct people, to teach people," provided they have some basic background. For the first few months, a new worker will be in proximity to an older one.

"We cannot make mistakes working on the car," Manicardi said. "Traditionally," he said, mechanical work is the province of men. On the whole, he added, "it is not a stressing job, not like mass production."

Production workers and non-technical employees are encouraged to suggest improvements to the process. If approved, the worker earns points that can be applied to prizes. "It's one way to keep people involved in the factory," Manicardi said.

Copyright © 2004, Chicago Tribune

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
First thing I plan on doing is to sit in it, Would you believe I bought car without ever even sitting in one? I did take a Coup for a test drive as their was no Spyder I could take out. Then went home to think about it and ordered over the phone then realized I never even sat in one. So first thing I want to do is dispel some of negative things I have heard of the comfort of the car. Then as long as not raining or snowing will put top down and have a fun drive home with it. Was told today the carhas been completed and just waiting to be shipped, I even got my dealer to get me the name of the ship it gets on so I can track its progress online. Up until now wait has not been that bad as we have had a bad winter here in the Northeast, But got very itchy with today's sunny 48 degree weather. So hopefully will have car first week of March and cannot wait to drive what I think will be the first Spider around my area
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