The Week in Review: Visiting the manufacturing plant of the Chevrolet Sail

August 19, 2016

On the very day that the Chevrolet Sail went on sale last month, Chevrolet Philippines invited members of the automotive and tech press to visit their Sail manufacturing facility in China to ensure that everything was, well, sailing smoothly, or more importantly, to show us that not only are their cars world-class, but definitely more pun in the Philippines.

While the Sail arrives as a completely new model in the Philippines, it is now on its 3rd generation in China and is only the second Chinese-designed, engineered, built and manufactured model to be exported to other markets under the American brand.

Introduced to the Chinese market 16 years ago, the Sail nameplate has sold more than 230,000 units in markets around the world and now plans to take on the heavy-hitters in the Philippines, like the Vios and Mirage G4, by offering a level of equipment seldom (if ever) seen in this segment––like a radar-sweep instrument cluster, 3-D weaved speaker covers, sculpted seats, a dual-mode sunroof and high-tech entertainment features, including smartphone display mirroring with natural voice recognition.

Based on a new-generation small car architecture, the Sail was developed by more than 2,000 experienced engineers in GM’s SAIC-GM joint venture, in accordance with GM’s global product development procedures, earning itself a total of 59 patents for technologies in its chassis, powertrain, exterior, interior, electronics and assembly and a first place ranking in the J.D. Power China Survey in the premium small car segment in 2015.

It was also the second in sales volume in the small car segment in China last year and finished first in the compact segment in the J.D. Power 2016 China New-Vehicle Intender Study (NVIS), which was released on May 23.

But impressive as that is, I don’t drive a patent or a study to work, which is why I like to physically see where my cars are built. And after 3 delayed flights, we eventually got what we came for.

As we entered GM’s SAIC-GM Dong Yue Motors sprawling facility in Yantai, China, I felt like I needed to advance my watch by about 20 or 30 years. It was so SIM city. I almost half expected to look up and find out we were in a glass enclosure in a lobby of a building. Or part of the Lego movie.

Totally weird if it were a city, but this is just how you want your manufacturing facilities to be––clean, boring, efficient, structured, predictable and totally devoid of any personality or character. We save those things for the design and marketing team. Here, it’s nothing but the facts, ma’am. Nothing but the facts.

It would take a few days to completely cover the entire facility, but it only takes you a few minutes to see just how serious Chevrolet’s plan of becoming a dominant player in this market really is. Resting on something about the size of BGC, the plant has adopted many of the same advanced global processes and technologies as GM’s other 170 plants in about 30 countries around the world.

I’ve had the chance to visit several of them, including Thailand and Brazil, and this one is by far the most advanced. It is 91% automated for a start, and it has the perhaps the most lean, efficient and flexible global processes in any automotive plant––regardless of brand.

Ensuring that each vehicle we build is of even higher quality than its predecessor is a key to our success,” said GM China and SAIC-GM Manufacturing Manager Paul Buetow. “To provide consistent quality to our customers around the world, every product must meet GM’s global engineering and quality standards before the start of production. The Sail 3 fully complies with the G0 global vehicle durability test standard for emerging markets.

The Sail then went through almost 3 million km of road tests, about 2.32 million km of regular durability tests, 350,000 km of powertrain durability tests, 640,000 km of exhaust durability tests and 480,000km of simulated road tests in 67 different driving conditions and is now offered in the Philippines in three variants, including a choice of 1.3L VVT or 1.5L DVVT engines, and a five-speed automated manual transmission starting at 688,888.

About the Author

James Deakin
James Deakin is a multi-awarded automotive journalist located in Manila, Philippines. He has a weekly column in the Philippine STAR's motoring section, is a motoring corespondent for CNN Philippines and is the host of the Philippine motoring television show Drive, which airs every Sunday night at 10pm on CNN Philippines.