Start with a sheet of cookie dough. Roll it out. Take various cookie cutters and cut out circles, stars, triangles. Coat with sprinkles and bake. Now you have a tray of cookies. That is exactly how Hyundai makes Creta SUVs. Maybe with a few more steps and not with dough.
The brand new Hyundai plant in Chennai opened this year and they will be making the whole Creta there, except for two of the three engine options.
The Press Shop
The dough in my far-fetched intro are rolls of sheet metal – high strength steel – and the kitchen is the press shop in this giant factory. The steel is unrolled and cut into rough shapes and sizes. Then giant machines press shape and cut them into body panels. These are the roof, doors, fenders and so on.
The Body Shop
Neither the place that sells cosmetics nor Frankenstein’s favourite emporium. The Body shop is where the pressed panels go to get welded together as a basic car shape. A Creta body shell has 1 683 spot welds per car. These are all done by 220 fourth-generation robots capable of multiple functions and laser-guided precision movements.
It does not take very long to produce a Creta body shell that weighs 297kg. This is called BIW (Body In White), an archaic term that comes from before monocoque car bodies. This shell goes through a 3D scanner that checks more than 1 200 points to make sure all is exactly where it should be.
The Engine Bay
The Creta comes with three engines, the 1.4-litre turbo petrol, 1.5-litre petrol and 1.5-litre diesel. The diesel is built in the Chennai engine bay, while the two petrol engines are imported. There they are married to their gearboxes, a 6-speed manual or 6-speed torque converter auto for the 1.5s, and 7-speed dual-clutch auto for the 1.4 turbo. Other manufacturers, like Koenigsegg, also use torque converter technology, but that’s another story . . .
The Paint Shop
The metal-coloured (BIW) body shell goes into the paint shop on a funny little trolley. This chamber is fully automatic and probably lethal to humans in any case. The shell is dipped in various large vats of chemicals to clean it, give it an anti-corrosion coating and prepare it for painting. Once painted we briefly return to our cookies, since the body shells are baked to bond the paint. A sealant is applied where needed and after the final check, the body shell moves on to the:
This is where the sum of the Creta becomes greater than its parts. The body shell is fitted with the engine and gearbox, fuel tank and axles, lights and doors and bonnet and interior fittings.
It is difficult to describe the size of the assembly line in Chennai without swearing. Very big just doesn’t cut it. Also, note that this is Plant #1, so presumably, there will be at least a Plant #2 coming.
This line is 960 metres long and has 154 stations. On it, Hyundai can make seven different models in multiple trims. It produces 45 cars per hour for a total of 330 000 per year.
A complete car rolls off the assembly line, ready for PDI.
The Pre-delivery Inspection
At the PDI everything is checked to make sure it is right. Anything that can turn is turned, click is clicked, or open is opened and closed. The badges that show the engine and trim options are applied. Finally, the Creta is test-driven on an intricate little track to make sure it can go or stop as required and steer as directed. Ready for shipping to a showroom near you.
Giant factories like the Hyundai Plant #1 have a strange beauty for some. If you are one of us, have a look at these pictures of the various stages of making a new Hyundai Creta or see it in its absolutely awesome final form.