Following some good PR work by John Moreton of the Pattaya Car Club, an invitation was extended for a factory tour of the Mitsubishi eco-car factory at Laem Chabang.
Even though Mitsubishi may not have the largest production figures (around five hundred thousand) in the automotive sphere in Thailand, it is still a major player after Toyota, Isuzu and Honda.
Three car assembly factories are in the Laem Chabang compound with the first assembling Mitsubishi Lancer and Pajero Sport with a 90,000 unit capacity annually. The second assembles pick-ups and pick-up derivatives and has a 220,000 capacity. The third factory assembles the eco-cars (Mirage and Attrage) with a 200,000 unit capacity. There is also the engine assembly plant with a capacity of 500,000 units both gasoline and diesel.
Mitsubishi Assembly line.
The group was taken through the third factory and followed the production of both the Mirage and Attrage, which come down the same assembly line.
In the stamping (press) area robots handle the sheet metal as they are stamped; however, the final stacking of the pressed pieces is done manually.
After the main body parts are brought together, the spot-welding is carried out, but once again this is a manually controlled step. There is checking of the welds and weld quality, a little further down the line.
Doors are fitted, with persuasion from a strategically used hammer, and the finished shell then goes to paint. Interestingly, the doors are removed before painting to be married up to the shell later. It was noted that paint quality was very good.
With the Attrage (silly name) being a “booted” Mirage, they can easily come down the line together. I noticed two stiffening struts are added in the Attrage to the rear firewall area.
The line becomes increasingly manual assembly and continues until a fully assembled car starts and drives off the line to then go through the shower test and a running test on the Mitsubishi track.
Many thanks to the Mitsubishi personnel who looked after us on the educational trip.
Whilst cars have changed over the years, the assembly line technique as pioneered by Henry Ford is still the mainstay of vehicle production.