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DaimlerChrysler : Making of the Chrysler PT Cruiser

all Photos: DaimlerChrysler

  • Operating Principles Ensure World-Class Quality

  • 120,000 Hours of Training for Toluca Workforce For Successful Launch

  • Flexible Production Allows No Loss of Vehicles During Launch

The Chrysler PT Cruiser coming off of the assembly line at DaimlerChrysler Corporation's Toluca Assembly Plant in Mexico is world-class not only in the quality of the finished product, but in the skilled workforce and Operating Principles employed to build it.

When DaimlerChrysler Corporation decided to produce the segment-busting Chrysler PT Cruiser after receiving rave reviews of the Pronto Cruizer concept car in 1998, it needed a manufacturing site with sufficient capacity, flexibility, productivity and a trained work force to bring a high-quality vehicle to market quickly, at a low cost and with no loss of production during its launch.

Faced with this challenge, and operating near full capacity at its manufacturing facilities, the Toluca Assembly Plant met the criteria, plus had the capacity and track-record that made it the ideal location for worldwide Chrysler PT Cruiser production.

"Bringing a brand new vehicle, in an all new segment like the PT Cruiser to market quickly - from concept to volume production -- is always an enormous task," said Gary Henson, DaimlerChrysler Corporation Executive Vice-President of Manufacturing. "Although the launch curve is ambitious, we're on schedule and we're shipping product. We haven't lost any production, and we've stayed focused on quality throughout the entire process. It's a success story for the PT launch team in Toluca and in Auburn Hills."

Building on the design and development strength established during previous launches as well as other best practices, the company has kept total Chrysler PT Cruiser startup costs below $600 million, including design, development, re-tooling, training, facility improvements, increased automation and pre-production trials.

"Bringing the PT Cruiser to market quickly, for relatively low cost is the result of taking advantage of new technologies in development, implementing best practices throughout launch, cutting waste out of the value chain, and using our Operating Principles to efficiently produce repeatable, reliable world-class quality," said Henson. "The goal is to get better with every launch, and we're doing that."

Flexible Manufacturing Launch

Currently the Chrysler Sebring Convertible, Chrysler Stratus and Chrysler PT Cruiser are assembled in the plant on the same lines, demonstrating the manufacturing flexibility of the Toluca facility. This level of complexity requires additional error proofing measures throughout the manufacturing process.

Toluca has the capacity to produce 40 vehicles per hour. As it continues the aggressive production launch, the number of PT Cruisers will steadily increase, as the number of the Dodge Stratus and Chrysler Sebrings decrease. Likewise, the new 2001 Dodge Stratus and Chrysler Sebring sedans, along with the Sebring Convertible will begin ramping up this summer in Sterling Heights Assembly Plant (Michigan) while Stratus and Sebring coupes will be produced in Normal, Illinois. This will bring Sterling Heights to full capacity, while creating additional capacity in Toluca to support additional demand for the Chrysler PT Cruiser.

At full production this summer, Toluca will have the capacity to produce about 180,000 Chrysler PT Cruisers annually. Approximately 3,400 team members operate on two shifts at the Toluca plant.

Toluca will produce both right and left-hand drive 2.0 liter and 2.4 liter versions for the world market. This is the first right-hand drive vehicle produced in the Toluca plant. In order to reduce the complexity of adding a right-hand drive version, the vehicle was designed to maximize side-to-side symmetry.

Additional right-hand drive assembly and testing capabilities were added throughout the plant, including: on-line electrical system testers, radiator and hose installation processes, chassis dynamometers, wheel alignment equipment, seat installation and tool duplication for all operations that vary between the two configurations.

Training the Trainers

With the challenge of launching an all-new product with such innovative design and complex engineering, team member training was extensive. Production teams from the plant were integrated early in the design engineering verification process. The same teams were trained with the first pilot vehicles developed at the DaimlerChrysler Tech Center (DCTC) Pilot Plant in Auburn Hills, Michigan, in a "train the trainer" process. Core production teams from Toluca, representing every workstation in the plant, rotated to Auburn Hills in six week intervals, over eight months. These core teams then cascaded the information back to the plant.

Ultimately one team member per workstation per shift was trained in Auburn Hills before the start of the pre-production vehicle build, representing about 25 percent of the total workforce at Toluca. Each trainer received nearly 500 hours of instruction, for a total of 120,000 hours, and was a crucial part of refining and evaluating production processes.

Following the pilot build in Auburn Hills, pre-production vehicles were built on the assembly line in Toluca during normal production. This helped to refine production processes on each station, and to ensure the repeatability and standardization necessary for world-class quality. Running pre-production vehicles in the plant also saved both time and money in product development.


Through continuous improvement processes, and its experience in using the company's Operating Principles, the Toluca plant and its workforce have a reputation for producing high quality vehicles at low cost. In fact, Toluca was one of many plants benchmarked by the worldwide DaimlerChrysler manufacturing group in developing best practices for the company's Operating Principles, the comprehensive system it uses to produce vehicles.

To ensure quality, the Toluca plant verifies parts, processes and fit and finish every step of the way from stamping and body, to paint and final assembly.

Some of quality assurance processes include:

  • Measuring dimensional accuracy of eight full bodies per day by determining

  • millimeter variances in the x, y and z axis of 2000 points on the body using 5493

  • charts;

  • visual management through quality alert systems, which are designed to bring

  • abnormal conditions to light immediately. The system provides visual and audible

  • signals for each station for tooling, production, maintenance and material flow;

  • the addition of 55 robots in the dimensional and integrity welding areas, including

  • two framing stations;

  • daily weld and sealing audits, performed by ultrasonic weld detection;

  • daily body, paint and assembly audits for internal and exterior evaluation;

  • 100 % Electrical and mechanical systems audits;

  • 100 % water tests;

  • daily customer satisfaction audit (CSA); and

  • 100 % road test evaluation on the Toluca proving grounds.

The Operating Principles

Like all DaimlerChrysler Corporation's manufacturing facilities, Toluca conducts its business using the Operating Principles. Rather than merely a way to assemble vehicles, the Operating Principles represent the way the company does business and maintains a lean extended enterprise system. It begins with core values and beliefs, the philosophical principles from which decisions are made. From there, we look at the "how", identifying the enablers and subsystems needed to execute our work (like human infrastructure, balanced schedules, value added activities and robust processes). We then identify ways to support those processes, tools for implementation, and standardized measurements to gauge effectiveness.

The Operating Principles give employees at the plant the big picture framework from which to operate, at the same time providing standardized methods and repeatable processes. The end result can be tracked and improved by focusing on Safety, Quality, Delivery, Cost and Morale (S,Q,D,C,M), internal gauges that each team member contributes to. Because continuous improvement is one of the core beliefs, the process never stops.

Toluca has embraced the Operating Principles, evidenced in its well-organized workstations, standardized processes, ability to use visual management, efficient material handling, balance of high tech and manual processes and its commitment to training.

The Supply Chain

PT Cruiser suppliers were integrated in the cross functional teams early in the development process. They participated in the pilot builds at DaimlerChrysler Technical Center, as well as the pre-production vehicles in Toluca, to ensure the same high standards are met throughout the supply chain.

The Toluca plant has many of its parts and modules delivered SPD (Sequential Parts Delivery) and just-in-time to the plant. This allows the plant to maintain about a day and a half of inventory, keeping the operation lean and efficient. Several suppliers located operations near Toluca in order to better serve the plant. Depending on the type and amount of components they supply, they either deliver to one of two nearby sequencing centers or directly to the plant.

Stamping On Site

Toluca Assembly includes a satellite stamping plant on site to help reduce logistics and production costs. With the Chrysler PT Cruiser, Toluca is also using DaimlerChrysler's first compression seam (mash) welding. This enables team members to weld different thickness of steel together and results in better structural rigidity with fewer parts, which, in turn, leads to better dimensional integrity and quality.

(March 9, 2000)

Source : DaimlerChrysler

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