Today saw the presentation of the FCA What’s Behind project, a series of lively documentary films that narrates the astonishing backstage of the complex R&D phases of FCA-branded vehicles: for the first time, FCA opens the doors of its operative centres around the world.
All motorcar enthusiasts can enjoy a unique privileged view of all the meticulous activities of engineers and technicians working incessantly to guarantee product quality, safety, reliability and comfort in all conditions. This is why the painstaking testing, checks, validations and stress tests take place at the most extreme latitudes: the structural validity of each test project is a key element in active safety, and must ideally be measured in different environmental situations, starting from a temperature range of minus 40°C in Arjeplog, Sweden, to plus 40°C in Upington, South Africa.
Where history and future converge
Places and settings constitute the first theme sections of the FCA What’s Behind series: the iceworld of northern Sweden and the deserts of South Africa provide the subject for the first two episodes of this docuseries, while subsequent monthly episodes will offer visits to other FCA centres of excellence such as the Proving Ground of Balocco (Province of Vercelli), the Safety Centre and the research centre “Centro Ricerche Fiat” of Orbassano (Province of Turin). All outstanding latest generation R&D technical hubs: experimental centres, testing circuits, technological facilities and offices devoted to achieving total quality.
Starting the car: the synthesis of unending operations
Once it has explored the places where the history and future of the FCA Group is written every day, What’s Behind will explore more specific topics including engine efficiency, technology, attention to detail, comfort and driving pleasure, plus aerodynamics and traction modes. When you sit behind the wheel of an FCA Group car and experience all its virtues – from the simplicity of starting the engine to manoeuvring and then appreciating its safety, quietness, panache and road holding – you benefit from a prolonged complex, demanding and constant process. The FCA What’s Behind project opens the doors of the Group to reveal the vast amount of work and expertise that goes into developing each model.
Arjeplog: FCA Proving Ground
Arjeplog is a township area in northern Sweden that covers about 14,500 km2, containing the FCA Proving Ground. Arjeplog offers ideal conditions and facilities for testing cars in extreme low temperature conditions: its latitude is similar to that of Iceland and the temperature can drop to -40°C… but safety is a key priority. The presence of numerous frozen lakes offers many kilometres of testing tracks with ample safe escape routes. Another plus, considering the competitive nature of the sector, is the area’s isolation: roughly 1,000 km from Stockholm and from the North Cape, guaranteeing maximum discretion. The grip of the ice is unrelenting, and this makes it possible for specialized technicians to repeatedly carry out tests to fine-tune air conditioning, defrosting and demisting systems, as well as checking the performance of all materials, and the reaction times of the vehicles’ many active systems. In addition, the area’s spectacular frozen landscape offers low-grip surfaces on which huge icy pistes and slopes have been created. These are used to carry out numerous tests, from the set-up of vehicle suspension to kinematics (structural yielding is here reduced to zero) and repeated testing of tires, brakes, control systems, traction and differential systems. Everything must work perfectly even in the most difficult situations!
Upington: heat testing
If on the one hand Arjeplog’s polar temperatures offer FCA perfect cold testing conditions, Upington on the other hand is ideal for brutal heat testing. A town in the northern part of South Africa, close to the border with Botswana and Namibia, Upington lies on the edge of the Kalahari Desert, next to the huge Kgalagadi Park… a name which in the Bantu language means “the waterless place”. Upington is one of the hottest areas in South Africa and provides optimal conditions for evaluating the effect of maximum temperature extremes, dust and dryness on correct vehicle performance. To ensure reliability in all conditions, the components and systems of the vehicle are subjected to relentless testing: engines, climate control, safety systems and materials must withstand all weather and landscape conditions. In this part of South Africa, the climate is constantly scorching, which makes it possible to carry out all fine-tuning tests again and again.
Turin, April 17, 2019