How many people work on a typical automotive assembly line?

The title should say most of it. I was wondering how many people it takes to put a typical car together. Does each person only put one tiny piece on (E.G. a bulb) or does a worker typically put together a whole section of the car (e.g. instruments and dashboard)?

I don’t really have an answer, but I would like to add that now-a-days, I think there are a lot of robotics involved that might have replaced much of the labor that once existed during assembly. But I think it is an interesting question, as my mother-in-law just retired after 20+ years of sewing car seats for Ford.

How many people? It depends. Some factories are way more automated than others. More machines = less people.
I think (working from memory here, no cite handy) that to build a modern car takes somewhere between 18-35 man hours. down from about 60 about 30 years ago.
A few eye openers from my last factory tour
The engine, transmission, front suspension, exhaust, driveshaft (AWD), rear axle, and fuel tank are all installed into the car in one step / two stations called the marriage point. The car body comes over the top, the entire running gear (which has been pre-assembled) lifts up from the bottom and a dozen or so bolts are screwed in. The car moves ahead to the second step of the station and another dozen or so bolts are screwed in by the machines. All of this is done by 2 workers that put the bolts into the automatic wrenches. When a car is in the first station they load bolts into the second, when the car is in the second station, they reload the first. I could stand and watch the marriage point all day long.
The glass shop, the car comes down the line, 4 robots pick up the 4 fixed pieces of glass. Each robot in turn swivels in turn and a fixed nozzle dispenses glue as the window is moved under the nozzle. When all 4 windows have a line of goo around the outside, the car comes along and the robots put all four windows (front windshield, rear windshield, 2 side fixed windows) onto the car at the same time. Then all four robots release, and move to pickup more glass. Takes about a minute per car and a kick to watch.
Perhaps the most amazing thing to me is that it does not matter if the car is a sedan or a wagon or an SUV, or what color, or interior. When the employee or the robot turns around the correct part for that car is the next on on the rack. :eek:
When the production is scheduled, the parts are ordered, from the supplier, to be delivered on the correct day, in the correct order. So every single time at no matter which station the corrrect part is available. This blows me away. I have trouble keeping my 2 car garage neat. They do it in a factory over 1/2 mile long.

Bear in mind that a lot of what is put on a car in final assembly is already pre-assembled, like gauges, radios, airbags, sensors, valves, etc. Each of those things was put together on its own little assembly line. It would make an interesting study to figure out how exactly many people performed “touch labor” on a particular automobile. I’d hazard a guess that it’s in the range of 10,000 to 100,000.

Getting back to the OP

Assemblies come from the supplier pre-assembled in most cases. The employee in the car factory would not install one brake light bulb, but would install a complete tail light assembly. Other large items also come pre-assembled. Dashboards, climate units, seats

Wow. This is really an impossible to question to answer without any particular manufacturer giving away potential competetive information (even though everyone knows what everyone else is doing anyway). The question is also loaded in that for most cars it’s different, and more precisely, for different plants making the same car. Finally…

What do you consider “building a car”? Do you mean taking a painted body-in-gray and sticking parts onto it until you have an assembled car? Or do you count the people in the paint shop? How about the people that build the body? How about the maintenance people that keep it running? Starting from the top again, consider a tail lamp assembly purchased from a supplier? How about the doors for that body that came from a supplier? Sometimes sheet metal is stamped in-house, sent out for further work, and then brought back in. Do the guys that take the cars out to the test track count as “building the car”? How about the engineers that are sent to the plant from HQ to ensure that all of the tooling is installed and functioning correctly during pilot production? They sometimes get their hands greasy.

Hmmm… tooling. Now we have everything that’s involved in making a car making a robot! And another company making machine controls. And another company making sheet metal. And all of these companies have to have assemblers, technicians, maintenance people, engineers, QA people, shipping and receiving, and so on. And the people they buy from have to use all of the same resources. And so on. And so on.

Can you see why the automobile is such an enormous part of the US economy? When you unfairly hear that Ford or GM is about to go into bankruptcy, it’s not something that affects only a few thousand underproductive union workers; it’s something with consequences for the entire economy.

Line speed is also a factor. As an assembler at the Ford plant in Oakville I concur with the above replies. When I worked in the truck plant line speed was 58 units per hour and there was only one shift. Now I work in the van plant building Freestars line speed is 70 units per hour and vans require much more assembly than trucks. If the damn things were selling we would be working 2 shifts but as it is only the day shift is running requiring about twice as many employees as the truck plant needed. When they build the new flex plant that has been approved, the plan is to run 3 shifts around the clock. There’s really no definite answer.

Do you work in final?

Flex always seems to affect the body shop more than any other area. You can reprogram a paint robot to paint multiple vehicles. Once a standard process is implemented in final assy, very few changes ever need to be made to become flex. But a body shop really has to be designed and built that way from the very beginning. I don’t think you have a lot of manual operations in your body shop, so the new flex body shop shouldn’t affect too many people, and you’ll probably not even notice it in final.