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EDAG: From Limos To Moab To...?

Not only does this German company create clever concepts, but it has even launched into production of an Israeli-developed all-terrain vehicle—in metro Detroit.

At the 2008 Geneva Motor Show, EDAG (in the U.S.: Auburn Hills, MI; http://www.edag-us.com) showed off a Rolls Royce Phantom that its engineers had modified. What they did was to create an articulated roof over the rear seat area, such that it is possible for the passengers, at the push of a button, to get into or out of the vehicle without hunching over. Ingress and egress becomes a stately thing. In order to pull this off, it was necessary for EDAG's Product Development and Production departments to carefully analyze the way this could be executed. The Rolls has an aluminum spaceframe. It was necessary to cut it for purposes of creating the articulation, but they also created a reinforcement that provides the kinematics, water channel, locking mechanisms, seals, finger protection, and, of course, the required rigidity for the structure. In addition, they had to section the aluminum roof. To accommodate the weight of the additional mechanisms for the roof, they created a carbon fiber composite outer skin.

What is arguably 180° from Rolls Royce is Tomcar, an off-road vehicle that is as utilitarian as the Rolls is bourgeois. The vehicle was developed for the Israeli military, to operate in demanding desert conditions. In more bucolic but nevertheless demanding applications, the Tomcar is used by tour companies, such as at the Moab Adventure Center (http://www.moabadventurecenter.com/trips/tomcar/) to traverse the tricky terrain in Utah. And there are security applications that the vehicles lend themselves to, as well. The TM-2 model is 111-in. long, 65-in. wide, 64-in. high, has an 81-in. wheelbase, and a remarkable 12-in. of ground clearance. It is powered by a 725-cc gasoline engine; a diesel is going to be made available, as well. Essentially, this is a steel safety-cage with bucket seats, metal fenders, vinyl doors, and the ability to eat terrain like a snack. (There are two-seat, four-seat, and mini-truck variants of the Tomcar.)

So what does the Tomcar have in common with the Phantom concept shown in Geneva? EDAG. The company is undertaking the production of the Tomcar in an 85,000-ft2 production facility in Auburn Hills. That's right: there is going to be a new automotive assembly operation in the metro Detroit area. In fact, they're moving from a production operation in Phoenix, AZ. However, while that facility was building the vehicles at a rate of one or two a day, according to Volker Amelung, president of EDAG US, "The initial capacity of the plant is at a maximum of 10,000 vehicles per year." The volume will be about 2,000 this year, and 5,000 next, depending on demand. Production is based on a just-in-time basis. They're operating a single shift at the plant, which is starting out with about 95 people, but the number of workers has the potential to grow by a third. The line is, by mass-production standards, comparatively manual, with little in the way of automation. For now.

One more thing about EDAG: In addition to the aforementioned Product Development (which does everything from concept cars to body engineering) and Production (from the fabrication of gages to series stamping) operations, the company also has a Manufacturing Equipment department (plant engineering and construction, test engineering, and technology development), and numbers GM, Mercedes, Peugeot, Audi, Volkswagen, and others among the companies for which it has worked. In 2000 it established its Aerospace division, in which it performs work ranging from designing and engineering structures like fuselages to styling and producing interior sections like galleys. Who knows what could be next for the ~$1-billion company.