Lexington Motor Company manufacturing facility 1920

If founder Elon Musk is right, Tesla Motors just might reinvent the American auto industry—with specialized robots building slick electric cars in a factory straight from the future. That’s where the battery-powered Model S is born. How the Tesla Model S is Made — Behind The Scenes

There have been 100s of auto manufacturing companies. One of the earliest and best known – but not the first, was Henry Ford’s company, founded in 1903. The cars were first build be hand from parts they bought from other companies that specialized in just making specific parts. That was fine for building a few cars a week. However, when many people wanted to buy cars, Ford figured out how to build cars more efficiently and more quickly with an assembly line.

Assembly lines are designed for the sequential organization of workers, tools or machines, and parts. The motion of workers is minimized to the extent possible. All parts or assemblies are handled either by conveyors or motorized vehicles such as fork lifts, or gravity, with no manual trucking. Heavy lifting is done by machines such as overhead cranes or fork lifts. Each worker typically performs one simple operation.

Some examples of auto manufacturing companies and innovations

  • Olds Motor Vehicle Company (1901) – The modern assembly line and its basic concept is credited to Ransom Olds, who used it to build the first mass-produced automobile, the Oldsmobile Curved Dash. Olds patented the assembly line concept, which he put to work in his Olds Motor Vehicle Company factory in 1901.
  • Ford Motor Company (1903, Detroit, MI) – In the early days of Ford, only a few cars were assembled per day, and they were built by hand by small groups of workers from parts made to order by other companies. With the introduction of the Model T in 1908, Ford succeeded in his mission to produce an affordable, efficient and reliable automobile for everyone: within a decade, nearly half the cars in America were Model Ts. The sensational demand for the “Tin Lizzie” led Ford to develop mass-production methods, including large production plants, the use of standardized, interchangeable parts and, in 1913, the world’s first moving assembly line for cars. Henry Ford perfected the assembly line by installing driven conveyor belts that could produce a Model T in ninety-three minutes.
  • Lexington Automobile manufactured in Connersville, Indiana, from 1910 to 1927. Lexingtons were assembled cars, built with components from many different suppliers.
  • American Honda Motor Co. (1959) – Bringing Japanese cars into the U.S. market was a big undertaking. There were lots of obstacles, but over time, Honda grew to be one of the biggest automobile companines in the world.
  • Tesla Motors

What’s the problem?

  • Ask
  • Imagine – What are some of the changes to cars that changed how they are manufactured?
  • Design, Build
  • Improve – What are some improvements that could be made in the manufacturing process?

That’s engineering

Engineering ideas

  • robotics, autonomous, multi-function, standardization, interchangeable parts, suppliers, conveyor belts, efficiency

Do it
Here are some challenges for you to work on…

  • Pick a time in the past and find out about car manufacturing at that time. How has manufacturing improved since then? How was manufacturing then better than in the earliest days in the 1920s?

News, updates

Learn more…