Search This Site

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Inside the Fiat 500X Factory

Fiat 500X Assembly Line

The Fiat 500X is built at one of the most modern automotive production facilities in the world. Located in Melfi Italy, Fiat has invested more than 1.2 billion dollars to guarantee that every Fiat 500X that leaves the factory is of the highest quality. Fiat has recently opened up the factory for a virtual tour via Google Maps. Visitors can explore how the stamping, body-in-white, painting and assembly shops work and see what goes into making the new Fiat 500X crossover.

About Melfi

The Melfi plant has consistently been a top production facility for Fiat, being the first factory in Italy to be awarded the WCM (World Class Manufacturing) Silver Level. World Class Manufacturing is a comprehensive program that aims at eliminating waste, perfecting the production system and improving quality. The key to these goals is fully engaging employees in eliminating waste and empowering them to take ownership of the process. Employees are encouraged to come up with ideas and solutions, many of which are implemented. For example, in the Toluca factory in Mexico there were approximately 25,000 suggestions made by employees of which 78 percent were implemented.

Located near San Nicola, 18 kilometers from Melfi, the plant covers 1.9 million square meters and has a workforce of nearly 8,000. Over the past twenty years the factory has produced many noteworthy Fiats including the 1995 Car of the Year Fiat Punto (1995), Grande Punto (2005) and Punto Evo (2009) and various Lancia models, the Ypsilon (1995), and new Ypsilon (2003). Currently, the Fiat 500X, Fiat Grande Punto and Jeep Renegade are being produced.

It takes five presses and two shearing machines; 860 robots in the body-in-white shop; fifty-four robots in the paint shop; 278 automatic screwing stations; and near four thousand workers to assemble the Fiat 500X.

The factory turns out 500 units of the 500X per day, running three shifts, 24 hours a day. Nearly 5,000 components are used to make the various versions of the 500X, which consists of four chassis types, twelve paint colors, five interiors, eight engines and 188 optional equipment packages.

Fiat 500X Final Approval

Lean production and modular assembly techniques are employed in manufacturing the Fiat 500X. Lean production means there is little waste, and bureaucracy is cut to a minimum allowing greater flexibility in factory operation. Modularity reduces the number of components to be assembled and aids in simplification in the production process.

Here is a look at the various assembly steps in making a Fiat 500X with the help of FCA Press:

The stamping shop is the area where the production of a new Fiat 500X begins. Huge presses transform gigantic coils of metal into the first 35 parts which form the supporting structure of the car. The entire job is performed in surprising silence by six robots operating with surgical precision.

'Stamping' indicates a number of different complex industrial production processes which share the use of stamping dies.

Fiat 500X Side Panel Stamping

Firstly, the metal parts are shaped by the pressure in presses. The resulting parts may have a variable section (this process is known as 'forging') or thin section (which is called 'stamping'). Panels are processed in this way.

The stamping shop at Melfi has a state-of-the-art metrology room where two robots examine every millimeter of each finished part and a light tunnel for reviewing shapes and highlighting the smallest details.


Fiat 500X Welding

The body-in-white area follows the stamping shop and is where the various metal parts are joined together. The body-in-white shop at Melfi is the reign of 860 'smart' robots used to make the body. The car starts taking shape under the careful eye of many computers.

Fiat 500X Body-in-White

Many joining methods are used on the 500X: welding, bonding and screwing. All are carefully monitored to certify perfect compliance of the entire production.

A range of welding technologies are used. Like traditional spot welding, MIG/MAG gas metal arc welding, laser welding. For cosmetic and parts that are seen, capacitive discharge welding and innovative laser brazing guarantees extremely high surface seam quality and allows implementation of sophisticated styling solutions.

Fiat 500X Door Fitting

Cameras and sensors guide robots and reciprocal positioning is accurate to one tenth of a millimeter. At the end of the production process, four robots measure the most important points of the body to ensure impeccable products from all points of view.

Fiat 500X Body Measuring

FCA has revolutionized the entire static inspection and measuring process by implementing specific solutions for making perfect cars. In addition to improving product quality by using increasingly more accurate equipment, being fast and efficient is the key: it takes only sixty minutes to measure a body in the metrology room. Here, one randomly picked Fiat 500X body are checked in a painstaking quality control process to guarantee that the body is geometrically and dimensionally perfect. There is no room for error: the measurements must comply to standards with imperceptible tolerances.

Two instruments used in the metrology room are the master jig and the assembly master: they simulate assembly and coupling of all chassis and body parts.

Measuring Body Dimensions

In particular, the master jig is used to achieve the maximum level of precision. It is a modular aluminum skeleton which replicates the body-in-white tools on which the various panel parts of the body are placed. The electronic sensors of a measuring machine check that all parts mate accurately and that flushes, gaps and geometric dimensions comply with design requirements to the tenths of the millimeter.

After the master jig, the assembly master is used to test check that all the interior and exterior trim components conform to the design.

Painting shop

Fiat 500X Cataphoresis Treatment

At this point, the body is immersed in large tanks to confer the corrosion protection which will characterize the car for all its life by means of electrochemical processes.

Fiat 500X Paint Booth

Very accurate inspection systems and robotized cells seal all panel joints to prevent the introduction of air and water into the passenger compartment of the future car.

Fiat 500X Fascia Painting

Paint is then applied to the body in a perfectly clean environment in which imperfections are banned and the environment is protected in a ballet of color. Here, 54 robots carry out this very delicate job under the supervision of seven human operators. Nearly 3.5 kilograms of paint are used for each car and the entire job takes less than 90 seconds in total.


Fiat 500X Powertrain / Body Marriage

In the meanwhile in a separate area, plastic material is heated to high temperature and injected in massive molds for making the bumpers, dashboard and fuel tank of the car. The painted body reaches the assembly shop where it meets its engine (this step is known as 'marriage') and where the car is gradually completed by fitting the wheels, the brakes, the seats, the dashboard, the steering wheel, the lights, the electrical system and the onboard technologies. At last, the car is made.

Fiat 500X Interior View on Assembly Line

This step of the process is assisted by no fewer than 15 robots, 24 handling systems, 278 automatic screwing stations and approximately 1000 workers exclusively dedicated to assembly on each shift.

Fiat 500X Front Bumper Install

Each component must be procured and delivered punctually in the specific containers to each assembly operator. These very complicated logistics are carried out methodically using the organization and support of a state-of-the-art computer network which connects the factory, suppliers and logistics in real time.

Fiat 500X Wheel Install Station

The new assembly shop is the heart of the plant. It has recently been upgraded to implement new technology but more important to foster a new working mentality and a new organization in general. The Melfi plant has collected and applied the techniques and best practices of all the other FCA plants.

Fiat 500X Dynamometer Test
The Fiat 500X undergoes an auxustive series of final checks were structural, dynamic tests certify reliability, efficiency and safety. A high pressure shower tests the sealing of the passenger compartment. The car is subjected to a rolling dynamometer that simulates violant braking, checks performance on rough roads, high torque acceleration and many other conditions. The suspension goes through a shaking process that settles it and then the car is aligned.

Fiat 500X Test Track

Finally,each Fiat 500X is driven 5 kilometers on a test track where an expert driver gives final approval.

World Class Manufacturing

In 2009 the Melfi Plant won the World Class Manufacturing Silver Level, which rewards the implementation of production cycle organization methods according to the best international standards in all areas, including safety, environmental-friendliness, maintenance, logistics and quality control. Today, after the recent reorganization and investment of over one billion Euros, it has its eyes set on the maximum WCM recognition, the gold medal.

Fiat 500X Body Welding

Quality is the sum of many factors: good design of auto models and workstations, cohesion, involvement of all suppliers and workers on all levels. For the first time, the team building actions implemented at the plant is providing excellent results by means of extensive workforce training and involvement in work cycle design.

All this is put in practice according to World Class Manufacturing principles. For example, each assembly station is provided with eight unavoidable fail-safe systems: the line stops if a component is not fitted correctly. Automation goes hand in hand with responsibility: each operation carried out at the plant is recorded on computerized systems and the entire production process can be traced at any time, even after years, by means of constant monitoring.

Fiat 500X Near Finish

This reduces the error margin and means that imperfect cars simply cannot leave the factory.

Product excellence and customer satisfaction are the primary objectives of everyone working at Melfi. To reach these goals over one million hours of training have been organized, new team leaders have been appointed and the most advanced technologies have been implemented to achieve the maximum levels of efficiency and quality.

More About the Fiat 500X

View More Images and Discuss on the Fiat 500X USA Forum

Manufacturing the North American Fiat 500

Inside the Fiat 500 factory...

Images and Press Release courtesy of FCA

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Fiat 500X Euro NCAP Crash Test

Fiat 500X Euro NCAP Crash Test

Crash test results for the European Fiat 500X were just released by Euro NCAP, the organization that assesses the safety of new cars in Europe. The Fiat 500X received four stars, just missing a five star rating. Recently, Euro NCAP has included crash avoidance technology in their assessment and that has significantly altered the meaning of the stars; this renders any comparison to previous year's ratings not comparable. Now to get a five-star crash rating a car has to be equipped with the most advanced collision avoidance equipment - normally reserved for high-end vehicles.

Interpreting the current star ratings:

5 stars safety: Overall good performance in crash protection. Well equipped with robust crash avoidance technology

4 stars safety: Overall good performance in crash protection; additional crash avoidance technology may be present

3 stars safety: Average to good occupant protection but lacking crash avoidance technology

2 stars safety: Nominal crash protection but lacking crash avoidance technology

1 star safety: Marginal crash protection

One can infer that a car currently receiving a four-star crash rating from Euro NCAP would be arguably equivalent to receiving a five star rating prior to 2014.

Fiat 500X Euro NCAP Side Crash Test

The European Fiat 500X received good marks on Adult and Child Occupant Safety but was let down on the Safety Assist assessment. As with other cars in the Small MPV Class, autonomous emergency braking (AEB) is optional, however, because Fiat doesn't believe it will be fitted to most cars, its higher-speed functionality was not included in the assessment and the 500X received zero points for it.

Interestingly, the top rated VW Golf Sportsvan AEB system is also optional, but it was included in its assessment. If it weren't, the 500X would be the top rated car in its segment. You can read about the testing protocols here on the Euro NCAP website.

Below are the crash test results for the European Fiat 500X.  Keep in mind, the Euro NCAP uses different testing procedures than the test performed in the United States. We'll have the US Fiat 500X crash test results as soon as they are available.

Fiat 500X Euro NCAP Test Results

ADULT OCCUPANT Total 33.0 Pts / 86%

Comments on Adult Occupant
The passenger compartment of the 500X remained stable in the frontal offset test. Dummy readings indicated good protection of the knees and femurs of the driver and passenger. Fiat showed that a similar level of protection would be provided to occupants of different sizes and to those sat in different positions.

In the full-width rigid barrier test, protection of the driver dummy was good for all critical body areas and, for the rear passenger dummy, it was good apart from the chest, protection of which was adequate. In the side barrier impact, the 500X scored maximum points with good protection of all body regions. In the more severe side pole impact, protection of the chest was
adequate and that of other body areas was good.

Tests done on the front seats indicated a good level of protection against whiplash injuries in the event of a rear-end collision. A geometric assessment of the rear seats indicated marginal whiplash protection. An autonomous emergency braking system is available as an option. As it is not standard equipment, its performance at the low speeds typical of city driving was not assessed.

Fiat 500X Euro NCAP Side Pole Crash Test

CHILD OCCUPANT Total 42.0 Pts / 85%

Comments on Child Occupant
The 500X scored maximum points for its protection of the 1½ year dummy in the dynamic tests and lost only a fraction of a point for the 3 year dummy, for chest acceleration slightly over the good performance limit. Both dummies were sat in rearward-facing restraints. In the side impact, both were properly contained within the protective shells of their restraints, minimising the likelihood of head contact with parts of the car interior. The front passenger airbag can be disabled to allow a rearward-facing child restraint to be used in that seating position.

Clear information is provided to the driver regarding the status of the airbag and the system was rewarded. All of the child restraint types for which the car is designed could be properly installed and accommodated in the vehicle.

Fiat 500X Euro NCAP Crash Test Car


Comments on Pedestrian
The bumper provided predominantly good protection to pedestrians' legs. Protection of the pelvis area was good and the car scored maximum points in these tests. The bonnet surface provided predominantly good or adequate protection to the head of a struck pedestrian, with poor results recorded along the edge of the windscreen and on the stiff windscreen pillars.

Fiat 500X Euro NCAP Test Car

SAFETY ASSIST Total 8.3 Pts / 64%

Comments on Safety Assist
Electronic stability control is standard equipment, as is a seatbelt reminder for the front and rear seats. The optional autonomous emergency braking system operates from low speeds, typical of city driving, to the higher speeds normal for driving on the open road.

However, Fiat does not expect most cars to be equipped with the system so its higher-speed functionality was not included in the assessment. A driver-set speed limitation device is standard equipment and met Euro NCAP's requirements for systems of this type. A lane departure warning system is available as an option. As it is expected to be fitted to most cars sold, it was included in the assessment.

Source: Interpreting the star ratings

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Fiat 500X Desktop Wallpaper and Backgrounds

Fiat 500X Trekking Plus

The Fiat 500X is due to arrive at Fiat Studios sometime in May. While we are waiting, here is an album with over 170 images of the Fiat 500X, many of which can be used as desktop wallpaper, backgrounds and screen savers, etc. Enjoy!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Fiat 500X Media Presentation

2016 Fiat 500X Media Drive

Fiat gathered members of the media from all around North America to sample the new 2016 Fiat 500X this week. I'll have more information and driving impressions up shortly after the embargo deadline has past, but while we are waiting, here is the media briefing on the Fiat 500X.

Jason Stoicevich, Head of Fiat Brand North America,

These presentations were given by Jason Stoicevich, Head of Fiat Brand North America, Matt Davis, Head of Product Marketing, and Danilo Tosetti, a Senior Designer at Fiat Centro Stile, and the man who penned the exterior of the 500X. Finally Art Anderson, Engineering Vehicle Line Executive in charge discusses the technical aspects of the 500X.

Where the Fiat 500X fits into the Fiat lineup

Note in some of the videos the sound isn't great, but it is worth sitting through. I'll work on getting better videos in the meantime.

Jason Stoicevich, Head of Fiat Brand North America

Matt Davis, Head of Product Planning

Danilo Tosetti, a Senior Designer at Fiat Centro Stile

Art Anderson, Engineering Vehicle Line Executive in charge of the Fiat 500X.

Fiat 500X US Production Beginning, Reserve Yours Today

Fiat 500X Detailed Images
Fiat 500X Safety Features
Fiat 500X Full Features and Options
Fiat 500X Overview Video

Fiat 500X Design Explained
Fiat 500X Photo Album
2016 Fiat 500X Full Specifications
2016 Fiat 500X Engineering

2016 Fiat 500X Overview and Design
Mopar Gears Up With Fiat 500X Accessories
Poll: Fiat 500X Trekking or Street?
Fiat 500X Marketing Discussed
Fiat 500X Driving Videos

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Alfa Romeo at the 2015 New York Auto Show

Alfa Romeo 4C Spider and 1963 Alfa TZ2

Alfa Romeo had a spectacular display at the 2015 New York Auto Show. In addition to the new Alfa Romeo 4C Spider and Coupe, already considered modern classics, Alfa treated visitors to three of their legendary performance cars. On display was a 1965 Alfa Romeo TZ2, 1933 8C 2300 Monza, and a 1968 T33 Stradale. Seeing these cars in person is a rare opportunity - probably a once in a lifetime event.

Alfa Romeo 4C Spider in Giallo Prototipo

Alfa Romeo had their tantalizing new 4C Spider on hand at the show. The production version of the open-top Alfa Romeo 4C made its world debut at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show in January and is due out this summer. The 4C Spider shown was finished in Giallo Prototipo and looked gorgeous.

Alfa Romeo 4C Coupe in Rosso Competizione

Hand made at the Maserati factory in Modena, Italy, the 4C is constructed largely out of exotic materials typically reserved for cars that cost well over six figures. The performance of the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider is nearly identical to the 4C Coupe because the weight gain from adding the convertible top is just 22 lbs over the coupe.

Alfa Romeo 4C Chasis

A 4C Coupe in Rosso Competizione was displayed alongside the carbon fiber chassis that makes up the backbone of the car and is a key to the 4C's outstanding performance.

Alfa Romeo 4C Overview
Click to view larger image

Alfa Romeo: The Future Belongs to Those With a Great Past

1965 Alfa Romeo TZ2

The Alfa Romeo TZ2 above is one of only 12 built. This purpose built sports racing car is powered by a 1,570 cc, 4 cylinder all aluminum, double overhead cam engine with a twin plug head, which produces 170 hp at 7,000 rpm. When combined with a weight of only 1,367 lbs, you have a car with outstanding performance and a top speed of over 150 mph.

The initials TZ2 stand for Tubolare Zagato and refer to the tubular space frame chassis used and the designer - Zagato. The number 2 in the name designates this is a second version TZ that sports updated bodywork. The original Alfa Romeo TZ debuted in 1963. The Alfa Romeo TZ2 is valued in the range of $2.25 million to $4 million or more.

1933 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Monza

The 1933 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Monza displayed is a member of automotive royalty. A legendary race car, the 8C 2300 used a straight 8 cylinder, all aluminum double-overhead cam engine complete with supercharger, to power the car to a top speed reportedly in the vicinity of 140 mph. Few cars in its era matched the performance and handling of the 8C, and it was virtually unbeatable on a race track. The exact number of cars built is in question, maybe fewer than 10 and they are valued somewhere between $6.5 - $8.5 million.

1968 T33 Stradale Prototipo

The 1968 T33 Stradale. It would be enough to say that the Alfa Romeo T33 Stradale is considered by many automotive designers as the most beautiful car ever, but this automobile is more than just looks. In 1968, it was the quickest commercially available car in terms of the standing start kilometer with a time of 24.0 seconds according to Auto, Motor und Sport magazine in Germany.

Designed by Franco Scaglione, the aluminum-bodied T33 Stradale weighed approximately 1,543 lbs and used an all aluminum, 2 liter, 4 cam V8 that produced between 230 - 254 horsepower. The lightweight concept and overall shape is the inspiration for the modern 4C coupe we have today. The T33 Stradale is valued at over $10 million.

Alfa Romeo 4C Spider and Coupe

Today, Alfa Romeo is for all intents a standalone company in the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles empire. Run by ex-Ferrari managers and engineers, the company has been charged with producing a range of new cars that set the standard as they have done in the past and live up to the legendary name of Alfa Romeo.

8C 2300 Monza image courtesy of Alfa Romeo USA
Gooding and Company
The Rob Report
Top Car Ratings
Alfa Romeo Guide, Joe Benson, Motorbooks International

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Fiat at the 2015 New York Auto Show

2016 Fiat 500X with Fiat Brand Ambassador Megan Agrusa

The Fiat 500X will be the star attraction for Fiat fans at the 2015 New York Auto Show (April 3 - 12). Besides the new 500X crossover, Fiat will also have a few of its special editions, plus a couple of Mopar accessorized 500L show cars to keep Fiat enthusiasts, and the public entertained.

Fiat Display at the New York Auto Show

Visitors will be greeted by a Fiat 500X Trekking painted in Rosso Amore (Red Tri-Coat) and a 500X Lounge model in Bronzo Magnetico Opaco (Matte Bronze). Fiat dealers have a list of 500X models they will be receiving in their first shipment, so make sure you contact them to reserve yours now.

2016 Fiat 500X Trekking in  Rosso Amore (Red Tri-Coat)

Fiat 500L Custom by Mopar Show Car

The Fiat 500L Custom by Mopar debuted at the 2014 SEMA last November and showed what some imagination can achieve. A classy two-tone dark red and black paint job is paired with the darkened exterior trim. Featured on the 500L Custom are prototype Mopar designed 18 inch alloy wheels in a black-chrome finish along with a front air-splitter that is also a prototype piece. Mopar lowered the 500L and fitted their cat-back exhaust system.

Fiat 500L Custom by Mopar Interior

Inside the Fiat 500L Custom, the red and black exterior theme is continued and showcased with red leather and black Alcantara suede Katzkin seat covers.

Fiat 500L Urbana

The Fiat 500L Urbana turns up the heat on the standard 500L Trekking with special trim. For the show, the 500L Urbana was finished in Matte Nero trim for a rugged, urban look. A satin black finish is applied to the front and rear fascia, side sills, and body-side moldings as well as the exterior mirrors and 17-inch alloy wheels. Satin chrome finish accents the exterior door handles, tail lamp bezels and smaller trim on the front and rear fascia.

Fiat 500L Models at the NY Auto Show

The 500L Urbana Trekking is available to order in six exterior colors: Verde Bosco Perla (Forest Green Pearl), Rosso Perla (Deep Lava Red), Giallo (yellow), Bianco (white), Grigio Scuro (Gray Metallic) and Blue Tornado, paired with a Nero (black) roof.

Fiat 500 Ribelle

The Fiat 500 Ribelle is named for the rebellious nature of the 500. Based on the 500 Pop, the Ribelle features a Rosso (red) painted roof, spoiler and mirror caps, along with Nero Puro (Gloss Black) headlamp and tail lamp bezels. Nero-painted wheels with Rosso wheel caps round out the exterior customizations.

Fiat 500 Ribelle Interior

Fiat 500L Vans Concept Car

Fiat 500L-Vans design concept was designed in collaboration with the Vans athletic gear company. This 500L concept car sports huge off-road LED daytime running lamps in an integrated brush guard and unique body cladding. The matte blue and gloss white two-tone paint is topped with a Vans checkerboard pattern. Vans signature shoe sole waffle pattern accents are used for the grille, step pad and rear cladding.

Fiat 500L Vans Concept Car

The Fiat 500L-Vans concept features a raised ride height along with 18 inch blacked out wheels and gives the car a rugged appearance. A roof mounted double decker surf board carrier with basket complete the look.

Fiat 500 1957 Edition

The retro-cool Fiat 500 1957 Edition is back again for 2015. This year, Fiat will introduce a new Cabrio version. Fiat dealers are taking orders now and it should be a big hit.

Fiat 500 1957 Edition Interior