Making the Porsche 918 Spyder, a highly respected small series sportscar powered by two electric drive systems and a V8 sports engine creating an impressive 887 BHP, was a labour of love. We detail how the project came together, and how the manufacturing process happened, in a brief article below. Only 918 units will be made, with production taking place up until mid 2015, and the end product is already a very desirable part of the Porsche stable.
To create this fantastic car, Porsche is pioneering a new methodology with its 4000-square-metre manufactory at Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen, in which 100 selected employees assemble the vehicles by hand. The factory was only designed four years ago, when Director of Production Michael Drolshagen asked his employees what made the ideal factory. The responses they came up with varied widely: While for some it was “the smell of leather” or “a certain narrowness of space”, the 43-year-old industrial engineer very quickly hit upon the image of a watchmaker working in cleanroom-like conditions using a monocle and tweezers to complete his precise craft.
The factory was built two years later, in a former paint shop, and has set a new bar for engineering excellence. In utter silence, the specialists work at ergonomic workstations that enable them to focus entirely on building a high-performance sports car. The room is tidy, the paintwork is designed to be calming, and there are no wires because the tools have been designed to be as easy to use as possible. All cordless, they are virtually silent and offer a great amount of flexibility at the workstation.
Around 3,500 work in the Zuffenhausen plant, labouring on development, vehicle equipment, body assembly, paint finishing, assembly and drive units. They come from 14 different countries and range from 21 to 56 years in age. All have come from the 911 production line, so expertise is guaranteed!
Production of the first vehicle began on September 18 2013. Before this, 25 prototypes had already been produced, using the factory’s unique L-shaped production line that allows the entire value chain to be held in the same area. During production, the vehicles pass through 18 stations before they are driven almost silently into the elevator in pure electric mode so that they can then be put through the final tests in the test facility located two floors below. It takes about 100 hours to get the car through the entire production process, including quality control procedures.
The construction of every Porsche 918 Spyder starts with the two-seater monocoque, hoisted on elevating trucks to allow the technician to raise and lower the component, as well as rotate it horizontally and vertically.
The engines, meanwhile, are being created in an unusual production line that passes through eight stations and takes 20 hours to complete. Throughout, the 140-kg engines are the work of a single employee, meaning that they have their own “baby” to look after, something that guarantees absolute precision.
In order to ensure that 918 drivers were guaranteed quality interior finishes, the factory contains its own leather finishing department. As Porsche themselves comment: “Those who have seen with their own eyes how the vehicle interior specialists stitch the leather around the sun visor in forty minutes with a steady hand in 200 precise stitches and finally secure their work with a cross-over seam will definitely understand the level of quality required for a sports car to labelled “hand-made in Germany”.
Along the entire production line processes are standardised to ensure the highest quality end product. These standards can relate to anything from standardised load carriers through to plug-and-play-principles, all of which ensure that components are installed in a uniform manner with clearances that are precise to the millimetre. The results of the standardised approach become especially evident when the side sections and door sills are fitted, as the tongue and groove principle allows absolutely identical joints to be replicated at all times.
All in all, this boldly innovative approach to manufacturing has created a car that the marque can truly be proud of – not to mention one that will, even before the last of the 918 models is sold, become a sought-after item for driving enthusiasts and Porsche collectors alike.