How is a BMW built?

A look behind the scenes at one of the world's biggest carmakers  /// by 

Car City Dingolfing, BMW Plant 2.40 is where BMW produces its extensive range of Series 5 and 6 models and – since 1 July 2015 –the 7 Series, the lightest luxury limousine in the world. Every minute a finished BMW rolls off the production line – 1,600 cars a day. During tours of the plant, visitors get to see how a car is built step by step from 20,000 separate components.

The first port of call for visitors, who are wearing safety goggles and neon yellow hi-vis vests, is the press shop. This is where car body parts destined for the Dingolfing plant and the company’s worldwide production network are produced from steel and aluminium sheet-metal coils. More than 40 high-tonnage presses produce a wide range of parts, from fuel caps to side frames.

Photo: BMW Group

The tour continues to the body shop. The atmosphere in the production hall is reminiscent of a science-fiction film. Robots dominate the scene and human beings are in the minority. Roughly 2,000 industrial robots swing their arms and weld, bond or rivet the sheet-metal parts produced in the press shop to create a body-in-white, as the welded vehicle shell is called. Fascinating – and scary as well.

The next stop is the paint shop, where the bodies-in-white are given colour and shine. One after another, five different coats of paint are applied in the car body painting lines. Each coat is about ten times as thick as a human hair and protects the car body from corrosion and environmental influences. Anyone buying a new BMW can choose from more than 300 standard and special colours. But despite the extensive choice, 80 percent of BMWs worldwide are black, white or silver. Incidentally, this is also where the bodies-in-white for the Rolls Royce Phantom models are produced in an exclusive small batch of about 1,000 per year. Each car costs around €400,000.

The centrepiece of the plant is the assembly shop, where the painted car bodies are assembled with the equipment and features requested by the customers to produce a finished premium car. A little green box on each bonnet – a transponder – contains all the information about the individual customers’ specifications. Men – and a surprising number of women – wearing overalls bearing the BMW logo fit out the interior of the cars on the assembly line. Carpet, trim, cockpit, seats, … every movement is perfect. The front and rear windscreens are glued in by a robot. The doors are installed. Once the interior is finished, it is time for the “marriage.” This is the term that car manufacturers use to describe how the finished car body and chassis are joined together.

Photo: BMW Group

Before the finished car leaves the plant, it’s checked by personnel and with the help of state-of-the-art measuring and testing systems. Every vehicle has to unconditionally pass the test on the short test track before it is handed over to the customer.

If you too would like a tour of the BMW plant, you can find the necessary information at: bmw-besuchen.de

P.S. In every BMW, Mini or Rolls Royce there are a large number of die-cast parts like crankcases, engine blocks and rear axle mounts. At the last EUROGUSS die-casting exhibition, BMW’s own light-metal foundry won two awards for especially innovative products in the International Aluminium Die-Casting Competition. Tours of this foundry are also offered.

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