Go Inside the Lab Where GM Tears Apart Its Competitors’ Cars – Wired

Posted: Thursday, July 31, 2014

The teardown lab at GM’s Vehicle Engineering Center has almost a dozen individual bays where competitor and GM vehicles like can be carefully disassembled, analyzed, and reverse engineered. GM

GM

This computer-aided design (CAD) image has the hood and rear driver’s side door added to the previous one. Within the CAD system, vehicles can be rotated to examine them from multiple angles, with parts including windshield wipers, suspension springs and full tire assemblies included for visualization and analysis. GM

GM

The frame of a Dodge Ram 3500 Heavy Duty pickup sits on a lift, with already removed parts beneath. A right-hand drive Honda CRV, in the process of being disassembled, sits in the background. GM

GM

The lab isn’t all about destruction. GM prototypes are built and tested here during the design process. The goal is to make sure everything comes together properly. This replica of a chain was 3D printed and will be used for fit-testing. GM

GM

With a huge collection of lathes, presses, welding benches and computer-controlled water cutters, GM workers are able to build an entire vehicle prototype from scratch. GM

GM

Inside the lab’s machining workshop, parts can be crafted out of a variety of materials for protyping and testing. GM

GM

This computer-controlled cutting system uses extremely high-pressure water mixed with tiny pieces of garnet to cut through metal as if it were as soft as angel food cake. GM

GM

This piece of aluminum was precision carved by the water-cutting machine. Notice the small slit on the left where the water jet began its incision. GM

GM

Most General Motors workers spend their days making cars (or recalling them for repairs). Not the 100 or so employees who work in a giant room affectionately known as the Teardown Lab. Their job is to slowly and carefully rip apart cars produced by the competition to find out how they’re built—and what GM could be doing better.

When we toured the facility, officially known as the Vehicle Engineering Center Teardown, earlier this month, we saw Hyundais and Fords, heavy-duty Dodge pickups and BMW diesel sedans, all in various states of undress. The teardown teams strip the cars down to their bare frames, laying each individual part out on long sets of tables, carefully organized and labeled for further study. Everything is examined closely, and each teardown takes months to complete. GM’s own vehicles are gutted here as well, as part of the company’s extensive fit and finish testing.

Click through the gallery above to see how these competitive autopsies are done.

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