If you’re a car nut, then visiting car factories is a must. I’ve been lucky enough to visit a number of them over the past few years and I’ve always come back learning so much on how cars are built.
To begin with, I think every manufacturer in the country should have plant tours for enthusiasts. In fact, every factory tour should include a visit to the R&D as well as testing and validating departments, so visitors can appreciate how much thought, research and testing is done before each component or new feature is added to a car that goes on sale. It would really make you think twice about adding any aftermarket bits to your car.
Another department that I think is extremely interesting is the paint and body shop. Right from the pre-painting treatment that the bodyshells receive, to the painting and polishing – the process is quite an eye-opener. The flawless process and absolute attention to detail and quality is quite impossible to recreate in aftermarket paint booths.
The engine department is not usually open to visitors, but if you get the opportunity, it is a place worth visiting. The engines are assembled in climate-controlled rooms to keep a check on moisture; this is something that isn’t common, even at authorised workshops.
Everything, from robots fitting trims and windscreens on the assembly lines to clinical perfection in tightening the nuts and bolts to the final checks performed by skilled technicians – all make the experience exciting and extremely informative.
If visiting some of these areas is somewhat confidential, a video tour or presentation by an expert can be enlightening too.
Most car manufacturers across the world have plant tours open to visitors. In India, some, like Mercedes-Benz, have plant tours, along with some fun stuff like an off-road experience track. Others like Tata Motors have allowed television channels like National Geographic to film their Nano factory.
What I really do wish all car plants in the country offered is a museum that showcases their heritage, not just internationally but also in India.
Imagine if Tata Motors showcased every passenger car they’ve produced, right from the Tata Estate and Sierra to its current line-up of the Tiago and Nexon, along with some interesting concepts that never made it to production, like the Tata Nano Europa or the Pixel. It could really be a treat for the visiting enthusiast and would create excitement around the brand.
It would also be great to have some of the brand’s flagship cars for driving on a test track. Also, why not have an engineer talk about the electronic driver aids while you experience them on a wet surface. What better way to showcase a brand to an enthusiast; this would definitely help build a lasting image. Lastly, it would be fantastic to have a souvenir shop selling merchandise and scale models too.