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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
While we're all worried about when they'll start producing cars, how fast they'll ramp up production, how fast they can meet orders, etc., does anyone know the extreme top limit of the assembly line production rate? For more than a year, GM has said that they anticipate a target market of 20,000 units per year and it would be profitable at that rate. But this does not tell the maximum that can be produced. What if the marketing gurus are way off (but in a good way) and steady demand exceeds that number. What if GM was in the enviable and rare position where the amount of cars it could sell, long after the initial introduction fever, were limited to the amount of cars it could make.

We know that the way the cars are made (hydroforming vs stamping) effects production rate. We also know that just one plant will be producing three different marques (Solstice, Sky and Opel/Vauxhaul). We know that the rate they were able to produce Saturns in the past has no bearing. We can assume that the line was designed for a rate in excess of 20000/ year to account for down time. But was this based on two shifts and they could just, temporally, add a third?

We've discussed everything from Antilocks to Zippers but think about it, by some estimates, every car that can be produced till the end of the calendar year has already been sold. Way over a third of that 20,000 model year number are already ordered. And 20,000 was supposed to take them all the way to September 2006 (16 months from now)! This is with the general public still not aware of the car. Yes there has been some marketing tied to a show or two and a few commercials, but until the cars are in the showrooms and on the roads, public awareness won't reach it's full potential. And if gas prices stay up where they are, might be an unanticipated number of people in those SUV's willing to go from one extreme to another, especially for a car in this price range. (As long as GM doesn't Fiero-ize their marketing and try and sell it as an economy car)

GM has always said they consider this a small market vehicle and will produce them accordingly. But how flexible is their capacity if they have to stretch a niche?
 

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mazda sells 9500 Miatas per year, I see no reason why there is going to be some instant market segment expansion that will see pontiac selling many times that number.
 

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GM blog said the roadster market in America is 100,000 per year. If the Solstice and Sky can capture 40,000 of those, that would be 40%. That would take GM from 0 to 40% in warp speed!They started building the Cobalt in Lordstown, OH in December and I think I heard they have built 40-50 thousand so far.
 

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nyca said:
mazda sells 9500 Miatas per year, I see no reason why there is going to be some instant market segment expansion that will see pontiac selling many times that number.
Miata has sold as many as 50,000 Miatas in a year. Their sales vary according to age of model. When they first came out they sold like hotcakes (40-50k a year) but against little competition. They have averaged 20k over 2nd gen which is where that target comes from (I think). The 9500 was at the end of the 2nd gen life cycle.

As crj1949 said, total market is estimated at 100,000 per year.
 

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you have to segment the market space - for example, how many of those "roadsters" are really 2+2 convertibles? then it has to be segmented by price (comparing a Solstice to a Boxster, BMW 3 series convertible, etc - makes no sense). clearly, the target segment for the solstice is the same one the miata targets. I agree with you that the "newness" factor on the Solstice will generate more sales numbers then the Miata (the new one hardly looks different then the last one), but I can't see a 4 fold sales number over the Miata.
 

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nyca said:
you have to segment the market space - for example, how many of those "roadsters" are really 2+2 convertibles? then it has to be segmented by price (comparing a Solstice to a Boxster, BMW 3 series convertible, etc - makes no sense). clearly, the target segment for the solstice is the same one the miata targets. I agree with you that the "newness" factor on the Solstice will generate more sales numbers then the Miata (the new one hardly looks different then the last one), but I can't see a 4 fold sales number over the Miata.
I can! I believe the Polstice is drawing in customers that were not in the market for a 2 seat roadster for several reasons. Size, price, etc. I believe the looks of the Solstice has really expanded the market. I don't think that Pontiac will take all of the Miata sales, but with those they do pull away from Miata, there will be even more that are generated from the sedan sectors of the market.
 

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jimmyo said:
I can! I believe the Polstice is drawing in customers that were not in the market for a 2 seat roadster for several reasons. Size, price, etc. I believe the looks of the Solstice has really expanded the market. I don't think that Pontiac will take all of the Miata sales, but with those they do pull away from Miata, there will be even more that are generated from the sedan sectors of the market.
I agree, but I would also guess that the fact it is American has something to do with it as well. Although more and more people are buying foreign cars these days, there is also still a strong percentage who remain loyal to American, and GM vehicles. With the F-bodies being out of production since MY 2002, there may also be a backlog of GM fans looking for a new, sporty car that may consider the Solstice. Especially the V6 f-body owners, who won't mind the lack of V8 power as much as the V8 fans would!
 

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crj1949 said:
GM blog said the roadster market in America is 100,000 per year. If the Solstice and Sky can capture 40,000 of those, that would be 40%. That would take GM from 0 to 40% in warp speed!They started building the Cobalt in Lordstown, OH in December and I think I heard they have built 40-50 thousand so far.
0%??? As if GM sells no roadsters now?
 

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Line rate and yearly volume discussion

Audio Imagez said:
The Boxwood plant can produce up to 200,000 automobiles a year.
The ENTIRE plant, yes. However, (maybe GMlinedog can shed some light on this - but DON'T post anything that could be considered confidential, please. None of us Mods wants to talk to GM Information Security :eek: ) I'm told that the Kappa line only occupies a portion of the entire plant.

GMl'd's numbers are in the ballpark of the estimates - or somewhere around 30,000 cars/year. (see some of the discussion in this thread http://www.solsticeforum.com/forum/showthread.php?t=2777)

At 30,000 cars/year, the line rate for 2 8hr shifts for standard 240 work days/year ends up at almost 8 cars/hour (28,000 cars per year / 3840 standard work hours per year is 7.5 cars/hour).

See, if you know the line rate, than you have a general idea of the intended yearly volume assuming a standard 2-shift operation.

Example: the old Cavalier/Sunfire was right around a car per minute, or 60 cars per hour. 60*3840 is a bit more than 230K cars per year. That fits with the approximate volume (although for a few years, the assembly plant that made them ran a 3-shift operation that produced cars for 20 hours/day :eek: ).

If there were extra demand, it would be possible to increase the producing hours by about 750 hours a year by working 2 shift saturdays (but you pay about 50% extra to do so, and you wear out your workforce). If you're really desperate, you can produce cars on Sundays, but I believe there are limits to how long you can make an assembly plant work 7 days a week (by contract ???) - so you might be able to add another 150 production hours (just a guess?) by working select Sundays. But these are at about a 100% premium (double time).

When the demand for GM trucks started growing, this is exactly what was done to get the iron out the door. It bridged the gap between the increased demand and the time it took to bring more plants from car to truck production. I knew people on the assembly line for trucks working 7 days a week for three weeks a month <yikes!>.

IIRC, the line rate for the Pontiac plant that made the Fiero was between 20 to 25 cars per hour. That implies an intended volume of between 75,000 to 100,000 cars that they wanted to produce and sell. If demand falls below this rate, then you have to stop working (lay off for a week or two, or a month or two like the ION or the SSR) or drop a shift (like the Pontiac plant did when Fiero demand began to drop, I think in 1986 or 1987).

It isn't really an option to change how fast the line runs - this is established early in the layout of a new model and assembly plant layout and rarely changes. (Although, I'm now having images of Lucy and Ethel in the Chocolate factory :lol: )

So, if the line rate is as GMlinedog says, the Kappa is set up to produce about 28-30,000 cars a year without much overtime, but COULD get an extra 20% out the door if they chose to work almost every Saturday available.

It is a balancing act - undercapatitize your plant, and wear out your workforce by running them overtime at every opportunity, and your quality drops - which gives the product a black eye and possible irreparable image damage. Overcapatize for for market (Ala. Fiero in the later years) and you end up laying off workers (who draw 95% of their pay when not working). The ideal is when you produce cars at almost exactly the same rate you sell them. Hard to do when you only have a small margin that you can vary your production rate, and the demand may fluctuate by FACTORS (not just a few percent).

This is all for fully-accelerated, constant and consistent production. You have to temper the numbers down to account for the startup of the plant.

As for the solstice/kappa, looks like the plant running at full capacity may be around 35,000 total - assuming they can work a bunch of overtime and are limited to a 2-shift operation, and there are no supply limitations
 

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What about the other kappas coming, Sky and Opel? Would they be be a part of the estimated 30-40k max a year or different line/different numbers?
 

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Hours of production yearly:

In general, the standard for planning is about 240 work days per year. That is based on approximately 48 work weeks of 5 days each (accounts for holidays and such).

Now, this ends up working out to 3840 production hours a year for two-8hr work shift operations. Multiply this by line rate and you get cars per year.

HOWEVER, if you need to increase annual volume, there are many options. You can't change the line rate, because that is "built-in" to the assembly plant construction. But, you can:


  • Add an extra hour or two to each shift [9 hr shifts] (up to additional 480 to 960 hours per year)
  • Work a half a shift on Saturdays (48 opportunites to add up to additional 384 hours per year)
  • Add another full production day on Saturdays (48 opportunities to add additional 768 hours of production per year)
  • Add a 9 hour shift to Saturdays (48 opportunites to add up to 864 hours per year
  • Work approximately 2 Sundays a month (or add about 24 Sundays in addition to Saturdays) as a half shift (another 192 hours per year)
  • Work approximately 2 Sundays a month (or add about 24 Sundays in addition to Saturdays) as a full shift (another 384 hours per year)
Adding overtime on a Sunday is a possibility, but starts to become VERY cost prohibitive (triple time).

So, starting with 3840 standard production hours/year, you can add between 20%-25% production hours by working 10 hour shifts OR working saturdays.

Working both would be additive, but it is hard to get an entire assembly plant to work almost 60 hours a week, and not realistic in the long run.

The other option is to train an entire third shift. Here's how this works (from a close friend that worked at Lordstown assembly).

Instead of the plant producing 16 hours per day (in two 8 hr shifts), you increase the plant to two 10hr shifts. You still need at least 2-3 hours per day for maintenance of the assembly equipment - so you CANNOT run your assembly plant 'round the clock unless you want to take a long break when a critical piece of equipment fails. (like an automobile: you COULD run your car for as long and as fast as you want, but ya still gotta eventually get gasoline, or change the oil, or get new tires at some point - or the engine quits, explodes, or your tires go flat...)

Add saturday to your full work week. NOW you have 5,760 work hours to play with (a WHOPPING 50% increase in your production volume yearly, your plant is producing 20 hours/day for 6 days/week for 48 weeks).

BUT, you can't ask your workforce just to start working 6 10-hr shifts a week - they'll just tell you to pound sand.

The solution is to train another "third" shift. Then instead of day and night shift, you have shift 1, 2, and 3. And you have 12 10-hr shifts to cover - that works out to 40 hours per week per shift - PERFECT. Shift 1 comes in on monday dayshift, shift 2 on monday nightshift, shift 3 on tuesday dayshift, shift 1 on tuesday nightshift.... etc. In the end, each shift works four 10-hr shifts a week, sometimes on days, sometimes on nights, sometimes on Saturdays, always a minimum of one shift between workshifts.

You get an assembly plant that produces 50% more than normal - all without overtime.

The problem is that you better be darned sure you REALLY need that extra 50% - AND you're going to need that extra volume for a long while to come. Training an extra shift is not a flexible way to do it - if the demand drops, you end up laying off a shift or shutting down your plant for "inventory adjustment". Laid off workers draw 95% of their pay - a very expensive way to NOT produce vehicles.

Just some more food for thought.
 

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mceb said:
What about the other kappas coming, Sky and Opel? Would they be be a part of the estimated 30-40k max a year or different line/different numbers?
I'd assume that kappa is kappa, be it a Pontiac, Saturn or Opel. I can't imagine a line for each. So, by inference, I'd say it is included.

The number always talked about for the Sol' is around 20,000/year. If the line rate is really 7-8 like GMlinedog says, then they are capable of more at normal line rate - I'd assume this extra volume would be for the Sky/Opel.
 

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It's probably best for GM to not be able to fulfill all the initial orders NOW NOW NOW then to start hiring 3rd shifts and moving to a 50% increase in production. Yeah, there's going to be a shortage of cars the first 6 months to maybe a year, but eventually you catch up to the initial demand pile up. Because we all know the Roadster market is a very small market, it's not like GM could keep selling the cars at the rate they build them if they did a 50% increase in production.

From press articles GM's releases they've said they plan on selling 20,000 Solsti and half as many Sky's a year (so a total of 30,000 Kappas, which is the cars/year number S-man determined below). I'm really not betting GM's going to export more Opel's then Skys. So say they then sell half as many Opels as Skys. So we're at 35,000 Kappas a year. If they did a 3rd shift 50% increase that's 45,000 Kappas a year though. That's 10,000 more Kappas then they need IF the cars sustain the selling rates GM wants.

Personally I think it's pointless to train up a 3rd shift just to meet initial production demands. Especially while dealing with whatever issues arrise at the begining and working up to full line speed. They're better off working off the initial demand then overcompensating just for us initial people.
 

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Interesting speculation. So our best guess for base sales for 3 kappas is per year...

Solstice = 20,000
Sky = 10,000
Opel = 5,000

Makes Sky a little more "limited" in nature but there are a lot less Saturn dealers I guess so it makes sense.
 

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mceb said:
Interesting speculation. So our best guess for base sales for 3 kappas is per year...

Solstice = 20,000
Sky = 10,000
Opel = 5,000

Makes Sky a little more "limited" in nature but there are a lot less Saturn dealers I guess so it makes sense.
There's only like 270 Saturn dealers in the USA I believe. It's a ridiculously small number compared to the 2800+ Pontiac dealerships. Opel is a primarily German brand I think, but they do sell into other countries. If you want a better guess of numbers look at sales of other GM lines. http://www.gmeurope.com/1125.html The Corvette last year sold a whopping 350 cars in all of Europe. The Speedster / VX220 (more then likely the car the Kappa will replace/supplement) sold only 950 cars across all of Europe in 2004 for both lines combined. So 5,000 might be way to high, but who knows since the Speedster / VX220 and Corvette are both expensive cars.

The Solstice # has been given repeatedly, the Sky value has been hinted at across several media releases, and the Opel I'm purely guessing at (but there have been some very vague press releases about it moving less cars then the Sky). With these speculated cars/year values I'm guessing these values are fairly close.
 
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