“When you’re offering your product from a quality perspective, the base product we deliver has to be one where the coachbuilders have the best opportunity possible to produce a top notch, first rate vehicle,” says Don Wine, plant manager, mid-size car division, Arlington assembly plant in Arlington, TX.
When the Arlington, assembly plant initially began providing a basic car for the coachbuilder to stretch out, the workers at the plant really didn’t understand what the requirements were.
“They knew the car was going to be cut in half,” says Wine. “We’d leave some parts off and put them into the trunk.” The basic idea was that that the plant was going to supply an unfinished car that the coachbuilder was going to finish.
Normally, the Arlington plant is the final assembly. The customer would be the next person to see the vehicle. However, with the limousines, the coachbuilders are extending the assembly plant’s work. The coachbuilder becomes the final assembly. “I fall into the role of partner trying to get issues corrected at the assembly plant,” says Wine. But there are extraordinary quality standards the coachbuilders have when manufacturing the final product.
“Upgrading a $35,000 vehicle to a $65,000 vehicle requires a level of excellence that will result in an absolutely first rate product,” says Wine. “Our plant always manufactures first rate vehicles. But the level of quality of the limousines has to be unsurpassed.
With that in mind, Wine had to go out and visit the coachbuilders to see what kind of problems they were having such as paint color matching and try to understand these problems. “I needed to extend myself to the coachbuilders, sort of like a bridge between them and our assembly plant. I wanted to be sure the product we delivered was absolutely flawless,” says Wine.
One of the issues the coachbuilders were having difficulty with was that normally there is no paint under the hood. “We made the necessary adjustments so that paint under the hood would become part of the requirement package,” says Wine. “We are also trying to make the bumper system match up, bumper to quarter as well as in the back end side to side.” Whatever requests the coachbuilders have, Wine adapts accordingly. According to Wine, that’s the key to a successful partnership.
“I have to put on two hats,” says Wine. “Normally, I’m the final say before the car goes to the customer. With the coachbuilders, they are taking what I do as an unfinished product and making additional modifications to the vehicle. I’m going to do as much as I can to give them a perfect product.”
The coachbuilders do provide specifications. However, the workers have to be so very meticulous. “We’re dealing with upgrading a car that’s already been upgraded,” says Wine. “It goes far beyond what one can imagine. If you’re a millionaire and you invest money in a Cadillac limousine, it’s got to be the best looking car you could ever imagine. It puts you in a whole different league.”
According to Wine, there has to be a certain mindset when prep- ping these cars for the coach- builders. The Arlington assembly plant builds six different models or about 200,000 vehicles a year. The limousines represent a fraction of the workload.
“I only build 2,500 vehicles for the coachbuilders out of the 200,000 vehicles manufactured annually in this plant,” says Wine. “It’s difficult to give 2,500 units the same kind of attention the balance receives. But I made up my mind that the limousines should get special attention based on the objective of the car and the market they are trying to hit.”
The quality of the vehicle is truly a priority for Wine. “I work for General Motors Corporation,” says Wine. “When you talk about this product from a quality perspective, the base vehicle has to be one where they have the best opportunity possible to produce the very best limousine. I shouldn’t negate what they are trying to do. I’m just trying to live up to their quality standards.”