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How Automotive Quality Control Works


Advances in Automotive Quality Control
Russian workers assemble cars at the Volkswagen AG assembly plant in Kaluga, Moscow.
Russian workers assemble cars at the Volkswagen AG assembly plant in Kaluga, Moscow.
AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko

So the quality control step of auto manufacturing seems pretty straightforward, right? You design a car, build a prototype, test the prototype and once you've worked out the kinks, start building production models. But, technological advances have made the crucial step of automotive quality control even more involved.

Now, quality controls tests can be more closely controlled, and even more extreme. While car makers still do a lot of testing in the real world (like driving through Death Valley, Calif., to test how well a car handles hot weather), they can mimic and even exceed real-world conditions in their own testing centers. Also, thanks to more precise sensors and computer programs, they can take more detailed measurements of a car's responses to the tests. Finally, they've also been able to add automated quality control systems to assembly lines, so something like a poorly fitted part or a bad weld can be automatically detected and dealt with.

Still, despite the incredible advances in automotive quality control, the most important component in building a quality car is the human touch. As a result, many car makers try to build a corporate culture where every single employee is responsible for quality. If they see a problem with a product, employees are encouraged to come forward so the company can make it right. Of course, that doesn't necessarily prevent all quality issues at the factory, but a sharp set of human eyes and a commitment to building the best car possible helps keep a company's cars safe and running properly.

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