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GMI Goes Inside: GM Prototyping Stages
GMI goes through the phases of GM development.
www.gminsidenews.com
September 29, 2010
By: Nick Saporito


Recent spy shots of upcoming General Motors products have spurred a lot of debate here on GMI. From the recent shots of the “Cadillac ATS mule” to last week’s Camaro Convertible shots, confusion and debate sets in every time a spy shot is posted. Debate about what the vehicle is and how close to production said vehicle may be are the most prevalent conversations. GMI has put its sources together to generate a detailed account of each vehicle prototyping stage GM products go through before they can arrive at dealership lots.

After initial engineering work the first stage an upcoming GM vehicle goes through is the “mule” stage. During this stage they typically take a donor car and strip it of most of its components and then refit the car with components for the new car. In some cases they have to modify the body of the vehicle to fit the components of the new vehicle. Mules are always hand-built units intended for early pre-development and occur nearly a year in advance of more realistic prototypes. The recent Cadillac ATS shots were of it in the mule stage. The donor car in that case was obviously the Cadillac CTS. Mule testers are typically built at GM’s Pre-Production Operations (PPO) facility.

After the mule stage, future product programs enter the Integration Vehicle Engineer Release (IVER) phase. IVER testers are also built at the PPO on a modified assembly line. Typically each station on the PPO assembly line represents 5 to 10 manufacturing stations from the vehicle’s normal assembly plant. The purpose of the IVER stage is to test all electronic components of the vehicle and ensure that it is “running” correctly. These are the cars with the mis-matched bumpers, and non-production tail lamps.

Next up is the Production Process Validation (PPV) phase. PPV cars are built at the vehicle’s designated assembly plant with the intent on testing the manufacturing process. After the PPV cars are assembly, they are also tested to identify the current level of functionality.

The last non-sellable phase of development for a vehicle is the Manufacturing Validation Build (MVB) stage. The first stage is MVBns. During this process the vehicles are, again, built at the designated assembly plant and only last minute tweaking is done to the vehicle at this point. After the round of non-sellable MVB units, the program enters the MVBs stage. These are test vehicles used to verify everything is ready for regular production. MVBs vehicles can be sold. The recent shots of truckloads of Camaro Convertibles, shot by a GMI member, were of MVB units.
 

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Useful and interesting information. Thanks.

Some pictures inside the facilities would be nice.
 

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I know that office building all to well:rolleyes: Thats not where they do the prototype design work, it is done at the design dome center on the other side of the complex. That building pictured is one of the main office buildings at the Warren Technical Center, and is full of engineers and just about everything else that has to do with GM. Its pretty nice inside but not really much to see picture wise. Now if you could get into the vehicle design center on the west side of the complex, you could definitely get some very neat and interesting pictures. (sorry, camera phones are nto allowed anywhere at the Tech center, they will give you your red sticker to cover up your lens lol.
 

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Any sense or feel how long each stage takes? If we see an IVER, does that tell us when the car will be appearing for retail sales?
No specific timeline because different parts of a vehicle have different timelines, interior schedule could be longer than when u see a mule. typically interior "bucks" are started long before you will see a mule on the road. sometimes mules can be for the powertrain only, in which case there is no headlight or taillamp modification.
Good explanation of the overall process though. :yup:
 

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I suppose this is necessary for devotees of the bankrupt company. I'm not puzzled by anything GMC does anymore. I just chalk it up to continuing incompetence and the desire to pursue mediocrity with vigilance. I do applaud when GMC tries to upgrade their products even if it seems that improvements only bring them to being merely competitive with vehicles built before 2000.
 

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I know that office building all to well:rolleyes: Thats not where they do the prototype design work, it is done at the design dome center on the other side of the complex. That building pictured is one of the main office buildings at the Warren Technical Center, and is full of engineers and just about everything else that has to do with GM. Its pretty nice inside but not really much to see picture wise. Now if you could get into the vehicle design center on the west side of the complex, you could definitely get some very neat and interesting pictures. (sorry, camera phones are nto allowed anywhere at the Tech center, they will give you your red sticker to cover up your lens lol.
I've been inside the dome and other facilities in 2000 when I was in an internship at GM in Yipsee. It is absolutely incredible.

I got to see the HHR when it was still in clay and Saturn Sky Concept when it was about finished for the 01/02 autoshow circuit. I got to tour the facilities where they test engines and transmissions too.

They were currently testing the v6 from Honda that was going inside the Saturn Vue.
 

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Useful and interesting information. Thanks.

Some pictures inside the facilities would be nice.
Good luck. I've tried to get my dad to let me in and get some pictures of the Saarinen designed staircase for years. They aren't too lenient on who they let take photos in their buildings.
 

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Interesting indeed... good write up sir!
 

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Plum interesting. Thanks partner.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 · (Edited)
Neat article but the title makes it seem like you went into the GM labs or something! I was really hoping for more of an inside look!
I've tried to get more content like that on here--content explaining their processes with an "inside" look--but I've yet to have any luck with them. And sadly it isn't that they don't go for it (because they actually seem to agree with the ideas), they just never have the time to work out the details. :(
 

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I know that office building all to well:rolleyes: Thats not where they do the prototype design work, it is done at the design dome center on the other side of the complex. That building pictured is one of the main office buildings at the Warren Technical Center, and is full of engineers and just about everything else that has to do with GM. Its pretty nice inside but not really much to see picture wise. Now if you could get into the vehicle design center on the west side of the complex, you could definitely get some very neat and interesting pictures. (sorry, camera phones are nto allowed anywhere at the Tech center, they will give you your red sticker to cover up your lens lol.
Actually, the design dome is little more than an auditorium, which is usually empty. The styling is created at the building next door, the Design Center. The Vehicle Engineering Center (8 story building in the picture) is indeed where most of the parts (both production and prototype) are designed. It's the world's biggest cubicle farm. Dilbert would love it.

Prototype parts are built mostly in a GM building across the street from the Tech Center, and prototype vehicles are hand built primarily in two prototype build shops on site.
 

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Great article. Thank you very much and I definitely learned something about a very confusing process.
 

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"OK team it's time to build a new car! Lets benchmark our 4 year old competitor's vehicle, promise lots of cool stuff, pay the media to hype it up, have dated engines and transmissions ready to be installed, and every year after introduction we'll de-content the car (especially the initial "features" we bragged about), all while raising the price! Have those "chrome-tech" wheel covers and dated engines ready to go! YAY TEAM!"
 

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I've tried to get more content like that on here--content explaining their processes with an "inside" look--but I've yet to have any luck with them. And sadly it isn't that they don't go for it (because they actually seem to agree with the ideas), they just never take the time to work out the details. :(
We can hope for the future!
 
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