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From 1948 to 2016, Land Rover Defenders rolled off the production line at the famous Solihull factory in the UK. Now, with our new Nitra factory in Slovakia operational, the New Defender comes to life just a 90 minute drive from Vienna.
BEHIND THE SCENES
WhichCar was recently invited to take a tour of this state-of-the-art (2 year’s young) facility and were beyond impressed when they took a peek behind the production curtains at Nitra.
Slovakia is somewhat the epicentre of world vehicle production. As WhichCar puts it, “The country certainly has an impressive track record in automotive production: Slovakia became the world's biggest producer of cars per capita in 2007, and last year this population of 5.4 million knocked out 1.1 million cars”.
WhichCar visited the factory during the 6am to 2.15pm shift. Operations Director, Russ Leslie, plays tour guide and tells of how the factory has helped the local economy by slashing unemployment from 11.2 percent to 2.1 percent – the lowest in Slovakia. In his words, “Some people were unemployed and needed re-training, others switched from other automotive roles in the region. It's a six-stage training process that includes dexterity, muscle training and IPS, our integrated production system. It's tough – not everyone made it.” As WhichCar also discovered, “Females make up 30 percent of the workforce, well up on the five percent typically employed by other premium car makers in the region”.
THE FINEST LINE
The process of creating a New Defender is precise and orchestrated. It starts with sub-assemblies and aluminium structures, then it’s onto the Kuka Pulse production line. Which, as WhichCar learnt, is a “system unique in Europe that's 30 percent faster than equivalent systems and inspired by a rollercoaster at Cedar Point in the US. A central carbon fibre rail and magnetic fields move vehicles from station to station at speeds of up to 3.6 metres per second, covering 2.7 kilometres in total. The flexible process allows the Defender to go down the same line in whatever percentages customer orders demand”.
Then again, you need to be spot-on when a bodyshell comprises “3600 rivets of 36 sizes, 1700 metres of adhesive beads and 400 individual parts”. Only once all this is complete can the Defender-to-be make its way to the body shop, then paint shop, and onto the final trim area where the majority of staff are stationed: 1400 people at around 250 assembly stations.
To say building a New Defender is a ‘production’ is an understatement, as WhichCar observed. It is a meticulously measured dance of machine and human. No wonder our Slovakian facility is as innovative as the New Defender itself.
Of course, the Defender building doesn’t stop here. You can personalise your very own New Defender through our configurator.