smartville, the production facility of the smart fortwo in the French town of Hambach, can claim to be one of the world’s most modern car plants. Join our video tour for a closer look.
The camera zooms through the earth’s atmosphere, honing in on a small hamlet on the French border. No, we’re not talking about an intrepid Gallic village, but smartville, one of the world’s most up-to-date and environmentally friendly automotive manufacturing sites.
Here, just a stone’s throw from the town of Hambach in the Lorraine, the ultimate urban cars are born: the smart fortwo, the smart fortwo cabrio, the smart fortwo BRABUS models and the new smart fortwo electric drive.
Intrigued? A new video, „hello #smartville“, takes a peek behind the scenes of the high-tech site where, ever since 1998, 1,800 employees have been using state-of-the-art technology to produce more than 1.5 million smart brand cars.
What makes the plant especially unique is its efficient spatial organization, centered around a plus sign-shaped assembly line. This allows suppliers to set up shop right beside the plus sign’s branches and manufacture their parts on the factory grounds.
Thanks to this ingenious set-up, parts are produced right when they’re needed. This so-called just-in-time approach – or “pearl necklace principle“ – is the most efficient and flexible way to build cars as it cuts expensive storage and shipping costs.
Efficient car production, plus system-style
Before any smart fortwo is assembled, its individual components come together in different halls distributed across the site. First up, around 500 high-tech robots make approx. 3,000 spot welds to shape 250 steel parts into the smart fortwo skeleton, the so-called tridion safety cell. Just like a hard nutshell, it surrounds the passengers and ensures their safety in any situation.
Then, the body enters the plant’s paint shop. Here, prospective buyers have a choice of seven different, environmentally friendly wet paint finishes, serving as a base for the many different color combinations available for configuration and order.
While the car is still in the paint shop, body panel experts manufacture the future vehicle’s doors and panels. The latter – especially lightweight, highly flexible and break-proof body panels – are cast from recycled synthetic granules, then sorted and assigned to a specific car, and finally delivered to the assembly line via a bridge.
Meanwhile, the heart of every smart arrives: its engine, available in 20 different configurations. While the body is still drying, the engine/transmission unit joins the rear suspension in the chassis. This is also where the new smart electric drive is fitted with its battery and electric engine.
From raw chassis to finished smart fortwo
Time for the final phase of production: assembly of all parts within the branches of the plus sign. Each branch has its own task and focus – Branch 1000, for example, is where the cockpit is assembled and placed in the freshly painted body.
At the neighboring Branch 2000, the most important step and milestone awaits: the marriage. That’s what car manufacturers call the permanent joining of body and chassis.
Moving on, we’re at Branch 3000, where windows, roof, seats, and wheels join the fun, before Branch 4000 takes care of adding doors, body panels, and final details. Once all of these are in place – a good eight hours after the entire process started – a new smart fortwo is finally finished and fully assembled.
Before it is cleared for road use, however, it still needs to pass a strict quality control regime at the center of the plus sign. Here, all cars are put through a string of thorough tests to ensure that they are truly ready for shipping.
As a final check, the car gets to prove its agility and reliability during its maiden drive on the plant’s own test track. All done? Then it’s finally ready for delivery to its future owner.
Modern technology and high environmental standards
The smart fortwo is the world’s most uncompromising city car. So, it shouldn’t come as a great surprise that the production facilities at Hambach are equally optimized and progressive when it comes to high-tech equipment, perfectly synchronized operations and – thanks to its own power plant – excellent environmental standards.
What’s more, the plant, which received the “Trophée de l’Excellence Industrielle“ as “best factory“ in 2012, recently embarked on a new chapter of future-oriented urban mobility. The production line-up now includes the new smart electric drive, available at dealers from March as a smart fortwo electric drive or smart forfour electric drive version, and – from early summer – as a smart fortwo cabrio electric drive model.
Anyone interested in experiencing these production steps live and up close is welcome to take a closer look. smartville offers two daily 1 ½ hour tours of its final assembly. Feel free to register at firstname.lastname@example.org.