To follow the debut of the New 500 to the Italian press, the Group is opening the doors of its historic Mirafiori plant in Turin, where every day the women and men of FCA create this gem of technology, now ready to revolutionize tomorrow’s world ofmobility with its unmistakable style made up of Italian culture, the spirit of La Dolce Vita, technology and innovation. Its ‘cradle’ could be none other than the Turin plant, part of the largest FCA complex in the world, employing around 20,000 people in production and the related fields of engineering and design, sales, financial services and spare parts. In its 81 years, the Mirafiori facility has made history in the Italian and global automotive industry. Now, in a symbolic bridge between past and future, the production line for the New 500 electric has been set up here, to continue the long history of innovative models leaving the Turin plant, just like its forerunner, which exited Mirafiori for the first time in 1957. Around 1,200 people will work solely on manufacturing the 500 electric, while production at full capacity will be 80,000 units per year, which could increase as necessary. In total, between the costs of design, development and engineering and the construction of the production line, it represents an investment of over €700 million. Even better, the New 500 BEV was created, designed and engineered right here in Turin: a product truly “Made at Fiat” and “Made in Turin”.
The New 500 production line, a concentration of technology and professionalism
To create the New 500, we started off from the work of the new model’s developers and designers. Together with the plant’s experts, they created a specific production line that even uses augmented reality to improve the product and processes. In addition, the ‘Manufacturing Execution System’ (MES) provides the option of monitoring customer orders and sending these data to external suppliers in advance. The system also puts the parts into sequence before they are dispatched to the production line, so the workers receive the correct part exactly when they need it. The heart of the organization is always the team leader, who coordinates a group of employees and is responsible for their training. The people in this position manage a small part of the process, looking after quality and production. In their work, each team leader is supported by technology. Suffice to say that all tasks completed are recorded on an IT system, whereby the team leader can check and verify the result of each one on monitors alongside the production line or on their smartphone.
The process to assemble the New 500 begins on the ‘Trim Line’, designed with the utmost care and attention to ergonomics: to ensure correct posture, workstations where the new Fiat model is built are located on a platform at variable heights according to the tasks to be completed and the parts to be assembled. This is the first point the New 500 reaches in its assembly process after it is painted. The work begins with the disassembly of the doors, prepared on a specific line where one of the most curious processes is the assembly of the waterproofing, where a robot deals with lamination, ensuring the highest standards of quality. This is the first time FCA has used hot-rolled coils to waterproof a vehicle. The process then continues with the assembly of cables and pipes, the dashboard and the central console. Once the ‘trim line’ processes are complete, the instrument panel and the central console are installed in the car, which then moves on to the next steps. In addition, the covered area available at Mirafiori has meant the areas focusing on logistics and equipment assembly can be located nearby the production line, streamlining the process considerably.
One feature specific to the production is the operator terminal, a monitor at every workstation that provides data on assembly, every step of the way. When their shift begins, each operator logs into the system using their badge and checks that all the safety devices are in place. By tapping the screen, they can certify quality, request the material and ask for support from their team leader. When help is requested by pressing a button, the team leader hears an alert and receives a call on their smartphone, to advise them that a worker requires their assistance. If the team leader is unable to resolve the issue before the car leaves the workstation, the line stops automatically to prevent any faults from occurring.
Another new feature brought in with the production of the New 500 can be seen in the ‘Window Assembly’ area, where a robot fits the windshield and the rear window at the highest quality standards. This is the location of the first laser tool installed at FCA, to burn in the chassis number. Compared to conventional technologies, this small piece of equipment ensures a better finish, greater accuracy and produces no noise or vibrations
We then move on to the ‘Chassis Department’, where the ‘marriage’ between the engine and the underbody takes place. One of the most innovative elements is the assembly of the battery charging cable. While one group of workers assemble the chassis, another group prepares the mechanical components by fitting the wheel assemblies and the controls for the electric motor. Compared to a conventional vehicle, the main platform of this car includes the battery and the electric motor, consisting of an Electric Drivetrain Module (EDM) and a Power Electric Bay (PEB). Other important components are the electric air heater and compressor. Once the traction system is complete, everything is then ready for it to be put together with the body: the ‘marriage’ is performed automatically. The main platform is then transported by an innovative, more flexible, automatic induction-drive vehicle, the various speeds of which can easily be managed. Finally, the New 500 – now with its wheels on – is ready for the doors, seats and steering wheel to be assembled, all of which takes place at workstations with strict quality control. One more new feature of the new Full-Electric model production is in the area for roll testing and wheel alignment: for the first time, there is now no need for exhaust gas intake valves, required to assemble vehicles with an internal combustion engine.
The plant is transformed for a new era of sustainable mobility
Opened in 1939, the Turin plant marked the beginning of modern production for Fiat and remains one of Europe’s longest running car factories. A surface area of over 2 million square meters, almost 12 km of underground roads to transfer engines and components, and more than 20 km of transportation systems to move materials and completed cars. It is a veritable ‘city’, its history inextricably linked to Turin's, so much so that the changes made to both the production plant and the urban fabric over the years are very similar in some respects. The production of the New 500 is now beginning a new chapter for this historic plant, as well as marking a milestone in FCA and automotive history. In fact, the Group has now developed a new transformation, starting right from the beating heart of the complex and its manufacturing. As production of the New 500 begins, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has started out writing a new chapter in Mirafiori’s history But FCA's work on sustainable mobility is not only focused on the new models planned at Mirafiori, it also takes in electrification systems. The proof lies in the various projects brought to fruition within the complex: from the Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) pilot project to the Battery Hub assembly plant. Still at Mirafiori, all the investment in which has significantly boosted its leading role in Europe in terms of electrification, work has also begun to install Solar Power Production Units with photovoltaic panels. Finally, experimentation in the city is another aspect seeing rapid development between FCA and municipal governments. A cooperation agreement has been signed in Turin between the City of Turin's Department of Transport, Infrastructure and Mobility and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to pilot – in city traffic – the integration of electrified mobility with the ZTL restricted traffic zone management infrastructure.
The 'cradle’ of iconic models
Mirafiori has long been the birthplace of ingenious ideas and futuristic projects. These same lines have produced iconic models that have made automotive history, have driven developments in technology, and in many cases have even accompanied changes in Italian society. The first of these was the legendary ‘Topolino’, the smallest mass-produced car in the world. Then came the 600, the first people's car in Italy, which after only a few months on the market was in such high demand that the waiting list to get one was a year long. Mirafiori was also the home of Fiat’s most iconic car ever, the 500, which put Italy on the road after WWII, acted as an accompaniment to the economic miracle and cut distances short, enabling Italians to get around, meet up and travel more easily. Then came the turn of the unstoppable Panda, another sign of the times, produced in three series of a total of over 7.5 million models. After that, the Uno, launched at a memorable presentation from the Cape Canaveral Space Center in Florida, which revolutionized the organization of the interiors with the introduction of the “minivan inside” concept. Not to mention its heir, the Punto. Basically, every Italian family album includes a car that came out of Mirafiori, such as the 1100, the 127 or the 131 Mirafiori, whose name even proudly highlighted the plant where it was made. Mirafiori has been transformed, as has the city of Turin, sharing its successes and its difficulties, yet always finding a way to resurface. Today, the Turin complex – Mirafiori and its extension at Grugliasco – employs around 20,000 people in production and the related fields of engineering and design, sales, financial services and spare parts, making it the largest FCA operation in the world. If we widen its scope to other work done in the Piedmont region, it takes in another 4,000 people, plus around 40,000 others working at the companies forming part of the supply chain.
The models produced at Mirafiori are: Fiat 500 ‘Topolino’ (1939, although production began post-war in 1947), Fiat 1100 (1947), Fiat 1400 (1950), Fiat 1900 (1952), Fiat 1100/103 (1953), Fiat 600 (1955), Fiat 1200 (1957), Fiat 1800 (1959), Fiat 2100 (1959), Fiat 1300 (1961), Fiat 1500 (1961), Fiat 850 (1964), Fiat 124 (1966), Fiat 125 (1967), Fiat 127 (1971), Fiat 131 (1974), Fiat Panda (1980), Fiat Uno (1983), Fiat Croma (1985), Lancia Thema (1984), Autobianchi Y10 (1985), Fiat Punto (1993), Fiat Marea (1996), Fiat Multipla (1998), Fiat Punto (1999), Fiat Stilo (2001), Lancia Lybra (2002), Lancia Thesis (2002), Fiat Idea (2003), Lancia Musa (2004), Fiat Grande Punto (2005), Alfa Romeo Mito (2008), Maserati Levante (2016), New Fiat 500 (2020).
Car production, and more besides
In recent years, the Mirafiori complex has witnessed major redevelopments and rehabilitation. The first significant works date back to 2006, when the Motor Village was inaugurated. Part of the historic wall was literally demolished, at Gate Zero in Piazza Cattaneo, the dividing line between the factory and the city for over a century. Near the Motor Village, an office building on Corso Orbassano has recently been rehabilitated after major renovations, and is now the headquarters of FCA Bank. An area on Via Plava, where new cars used to emerge, has also been reborn with a new mission, to follow the reclamation of the industrial facilities there. Indeed, the buildings of the former Workshop 2 have now become a business district of fundamental importance. The Centro Stile, Abarth Workshops and the offices of FCA Services and CNH Industrial are based here, as are the Group's administration, IT and accounting departments. The same area also plays host to the Heritage Hub, an environment caught between the past and future, home to the FCA Heritage department and its mission to protect the unrivaled historical legacy of the Group’s Italian brands. Inaugurated in 2019, the impressive building is a place of work, services and sales, but is also an exciting showcase with over 250 cars from the organization's historical collection, still a source of inspiration today.Finally,FCA has always paid great attention to higher education, so much so that one of the campuses of the Polytechnic University of Turin is now located within Mirafiori, on Corso Settembrini: the Citadel of Design and Sustainable Mobility. Last but not least, not far from the Mirafiori complex stands the former Fiat plant of Rivalta. Once the renovations have been completed there by early next year, it will become a global distribution center for Mopar-branded spare parts, serving Europe, the Middle East, Africa and other markets around the world. A former vehicle production plant – commissioned in 1967, the site where many of Fiat's most famous models were manufactured, including the Fiat 124 Spider, Dino, Ritmo and Bravo – is being transformed into an innovative warehouse, based on the principles of energy efficiency and environmental sustainability, to store and distribute accessories and spare parts. The new center will dispatch to over 5,000 destinations, resulting in a considerable reduction in delivery lead times to dealerships and workshops.