China parts are assembled in Calif.
Photo credit: MARK RECHTIN
BENECIA, Calif. -- Far from the auto-assembly heartland in the Midwest and South, Coda is using a Bay Area assembly operation -- manned by more than a few former employees of a shuttered nearby General Motors-Toyota plant -- to put the finishing touches on its electric cars.
In a corrugated-steel building half the size of a football field, the workers' main task is to join the bodies to the electric powertrain, which are both pre-assembled in China.
After an unpowered body is hoisted, the battery pack is raised into place with a hydraulic lift and attached at 20 points. Heating and cooling conduits are connected, as is the emergency-disconnect cable for the pack.
The workers also test water seals, install optional equipment, reprogram the car's software, true the suspension, conduct a road test and charge the main battery. Each step has some form of inspection or quality control, said Dennis Dougherty, Coda senior vice president of operations.
When completed, the cars have about 70 percent Chinese content. The 12 percent U.S. and Canadian content includes the motor, converter, wiring harness and electric power steering system.
The operation, run by Amports, an automotive processing company, is about a 30-minute drive north of Oakland. Amports processes as many as 300,000 vehicles a year, both for import and export. For instance, it is processing Japan-built Toyotas and Scions for distributor Gulf States Toyota.
For now, a single shift builds about a dozen cars a day. Peak output is 50 vehicles per shift. That's relatively small scale for the batches that Amports handles. But the operation has plenty of room for expansion, Dougherty said.
Should Coda's business grow to substantially more than 50 cars a shift from two shifts, the operation will transform from "station" assembly into a serial production line. Amports has conveyors in place to handle the switch.
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