M3 Production Process at Regensburg Plant Tour
EDIT: Added more pics. One of the giant press machine and the press molds, another one that shows the robots, an assembly line shot, and a final "marriage" shot.
Just got back from a trip to the Regensburg BMW Plant. I wanted to do a review with some pictures and facts. Overall, the tour was excellent and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is in the area or who ever visits Bavaria. The tour lasts about 2.5 hours, and it is relatively easy to schedule a time with BMW via email. It was awesome to see exactly how BMW makes our cars, and I am definitely more appreciative of my car now after seeing how it was brought to life. The amount of robots and people that are employed, and the amount of detail that BMW takes with even the smallest things is truly something else.
Anyway, here is a description of the production process and a couple other things I learned. It is a bit lengthy...
The production process from start to finish of an M3 is approximately 30 hours. The entire process starts in the "press shop" where a 4,000 ton press makes the main parts of the car from hot galvanized steel which is brought in from Austria. The M3's bonnet is made in the press with a special press mold which weighs 20 tons! After the press shop, the shell of the car goes to the body shop. Here, the car goes through a bunch of stations which are "manned" by robots. The robots perform welding and gluing functions in order to shape the body of the car together. There are quality control measures at the end of each station where robotic arms with lasers verify dimensions and the proper proportions. At the end of this stage, each M3 body is pulled off the line to receive special care from handwelders (there is a pic of this station below that has one shell and a BMW/Mini sign Werkzeug und Anlagenbau) where they put in special welding points to fit the exhaust system. I forgot to mention that each shell has a special transponder that not only allows BMW to track each car, but it is scanned at each station so the robots or the workers know what action to perform or which option to install. After this stage, the cars go into the paint shop. We were not allowed to go in here because they are currently test painting the 2010 Z4. There were already a few completed models that were in the assembly line, but they were covered with blue tarps so we could not see them. After the paint shop, the cars are moved to the
car warehouse (pic below as well). I was amazed by this. It looks like an enormous stack of mail boxes but instead of letters, there are cars. The big orange arm stacks the cars into the boxes and pulls them out as their number comes up for the assembly line. Once the car is taken out, it goes to the assembly line. The assembly line is manned by actual workers, and this is where your car is made according to your specification. This is also where the "marriage" takes place between engine/chassis and body (see the pics of the white M3 convertible at the end). From this point in time, it is only 2 1/2 hours until the car is finished. It continues to go through the line to receive the specific options, wheels, fluids, and 20 liters of gasoline. After the car receives gas, it goes outside to the track or the parking lot.
I also learned a couple other interesting things that you might not know. First of all, the M3's seats and bumpers are both outsourced to another company. I don't know who makes the bumpers, but I know that they come to the Regensburg factory painted by a non-BMW organization. The bumper is mounted in the final stage right before the car gets its wheels. For the seats, these are also outsourced, but BMW plans to insource them starting next year in order to cut production costs. I asked the tour guide why the US convertibles get the "euro seat" and the sedan and coupe do not, and he explained that it has to do with the way that the seats are labeled by the third party before they come to BMW. Because the vert came after the coupe and sedan, it avoided a US designation in the seat's nomenclature. The original intent was that all US platforms would get the US seat, but because of the way that BMW labeled the parts from the seat vendor, it just turned out that the US vert got the euro seats. Sounds crazy to me...
Another thing that I didn't know is that all US vehicles are test driven before they are loaded for transportation. There is a certain system to determine which ones are driven down a 400m straight line and which ones are taken on the test track, but every US vehicle gets some sort of a test drive to check interior noise and overall car/engine operation. The reason for this is because if there is something wrong with the car, it is obviously much cheaper for BMW if they catch it before they pay to ship it to the US. Euro spec BMW's are test driven on a 1 out of every 15 vehicle basis.
At the end of the tour, we got free drinks and we got to stand around an awesome glass table with an M3 engine beneath it to ask questions. I also got a poster and a unique M3 brochure.
As I said, it was a great time. I'll gladly go again if anyone is out this way! Enjoy...
Last edited by Big Windy; 10-14-2008 at 12:01 PM.
Reason: Added some more pics