A friend saved up for years for her dream trip to India. She arrived at the airport there, had a panic attack, and took the next flight home. I know others who went there and loved it, but the point is that India is an intimidating place. Eighteen percent of the world’s people live there. The cities are massive. Everything is huge. Take the Renault-Nissan Automotive India plant in Chennai. It makes 480 000 cars per year – nearly the same as all the cars sold in South Africa.
One of the cars made in this mega factory for the global market is the new Nissan Magnite, the sub-compact SUV based on the CMF-A+ platform. The Magnite is the smallest SUV in the Nissan stable, filling the obvious gap below the Nissan Qashqai.
The first thing you notice at the giant Chennai factory, apart from the size of this place, is that several different makes and models share an assembly line. Everything is automated and production runs at a frenetic pace to keep up with the demands of global showrooms of both Nissan and Renault.
Back to the Magnite. We start in the powertrain shop where both 1-litre engines – a turbo and a naturally aspirated version – are assembled from parts that are mainly made in other factories. The Turbo gets the Mirror Bore Coating developed for the Nissan GT-R; an innovation that boosts the engine’s efficiency by reducing friction.
While the engines are being assembled, the stamping shop produces the body panels. Huge rolls of sheet metal go through cutting machines that give them their basic shape. Giant presses grab and squeeze this cut metal into body parts at a breath-taking rate. The work happens so fast, and there are so many different panels being made at the same time, that it is impossible to guess for which model any specific panel is being made.
The construction of the Magnite and other models become clearer once you get to the trim and chassis shops, where the high-speed Tetris shapes slow down and suddenly starts combining to form a recognisable Magnite. Giant robotic welders pin the parts together. The rough car body is then washed to get rid of the manufacturing grime before it is whisked through to the paint shop. There it gets several layers of coating, from base to colour to clear protective, are applied automatically.
The engine is fitted and the rest of the car assembled. Before it can start its journey to the showroom floor, each Magnite has to pass the PDI – the pre-delivery inspection. The final part of this inspection involves pulling the car through a pool of water to make sure there are no leaks.
Only then is the new Nissan Magnite released to go out and make a driver somewhere in the world very happy.