Heading North into the mountains

Trip Start Jan 01, 2006
Trip End Apr 30, 2006

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

From Puebla

The drive up the toll Mex 150D was pleasant but exhilarating as we now climbed the tallest mountains thus far. The scenic views were breathtaking and the vistas from the Westy were awesome even though they had Rita clutching the grab bar quite often.
We reached the humongous city of Puebla with a population of over 1 million early afternoon. As we were driving along following the instructions to the Las Americas trailer park in Cholula, a suburb of Puebla, we see the Volkswagen plant. That would save us time to find it later so we get off and drive up to the main gate. We ask if it's possible to have a tour tomorrow. Some calls are made, a young German woman, Mignon Droste, shows up and tells us it is not their policy to accord tours to individuals and especially on short notice. After some discussion and pleading she says she will talk to her supervisor and let us know by e-mail later on in the day. We take a few pics and off we go to find our camp for the night. We eventually find the trailer park after much driving around it. It is secluded and there are no signs, as usual ! We set up camp and find we have a WiFi connection so hopefully we get a message from Minion. Later on it comes and we are invited for a tour of the Volkswagen plant at 12 noon. Cool !
Morning comes and we find it quite chilly. So much for the way too hot Playas of the West coast. We are now at 2158 meter elevation with numerous volcanoes surrounding us, quite the change. We get ourselves organized to take the Volkswagen plant tour. We arrive at the main gate at 11:30 not wanting to be late. Mignon meets us soon afterwards and says we can begin immediately. We are led to a convertible version of the Mex VW bay window bus with inline water-cooled engine. Very spiffy. This will be our transportation through the plant. We are given some info about the facilities which are on some 44 hectares, they have their own water and electric plants. Over 1/3 of the grounds are forest and gardens, they employ 14,000 persons directly and 20,000 persons indirectly. Most of the suppliers of parts are in very close proximity so parts are delivered on a "just in time" basis. There is no warehousing of parts. They run a 5 day work week on a 24 hour schedule. The production lines produce the New Beetle for world wide sales and the Jetta 4 and Jetta or Bora 5. There are 950 Jetta/Bora's coming off the assembly line each day and 350 New Beetles. The engine plant produces 4 and 5 cylinder gasoline engines. All diesel engines are manufactured in Germany and brought in. There are currently no vans being produced in Mexico. There are however many new Eurovan TDI models everywhere e look. There is also a test track which is supposed to duplicate all driving conditions including the Mexican topes. We are not permitted to see the track except from the outside of a 6 ~ 8 foot fence covered in a some kind of material to obstruct the view. We're told all vehicles are tested on this track before being sent out.
Soon we're off on the tour with the first stop at the completely automated stamping plant. This is where all the metal panels are stamped out. The tools are rotated automatically as changes are needed. This is one of the most modern, sophisticated stamping plants in the world we're told. They do have, running nearby, a manual stamping plant for production of panels for older models. We then are taken to where the panels are put together by spot welding, laser welding and hot glue welding all of which is done in a closed robotic environment and controlled by workers using video cameras. The completed shells are then sent to the paint shop which we are not allowed to see. Next we're taken to where the painted bodies arrive and assembly starts. Interiors and then the wedding point where the mechanical parts as a complete unit are attached to the body shell. We're then taken through the engine plant where some 2000 engine per day are assembled for use in this plant and export to other plants. Out of the plant we stop at the souvenir shop and yes we got stuff for BusFusion ! We then say our goodbyes and thankyous to Ms Minion and invite her to visit us in Almonte and to BusFusion.
We spend the rest of the day exploring Cholula. Being the first day of spring there are huge celebrations going on here and most everywhere in Mexico. We visit a church high atop a hill which is built on an ancient pyramid. As if we are not already high enough we climb to the top to visit. Back down through the throngs of people, some shopping then back to our camp. In the morning we are off again to the North toward Guanajuato.
Hasta luego amigos !
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