Peugeot Factory Tour at Sochaux

Peugeot have major manufacturing plants in the Alsace region of France at Sochaux and Mulhouse. This part of France is not very picturesque, but devoted car enthusiasts are drawn there to visit the French National Motor Museum in Mulhouse. Peugeot enthusiasts in particular are attracted to the Peugeot Museum at Sochaux.

When I visited the Peugeot museum in August 1997 I discovered that there were guided tours of the Sochaux factory beginning from the museum at 8:30 am on weekdays. I immediately rearranged my itinerary to include a return visit in the following week.

After a two hour drive from a camping ground in Munstertal, in the black forest region of Germany, I arrived just on 8:30 and joined the other Peugeot tourists in the museum's theatrette. The proceedings began with an introduction by our guide and a flashy video presentation selling the virtues of Peugeot. All of this was in French and I did not follow it very well. I did gather that photographs could not be taken on the tour.

After the presentation we were guided onto a bus and driven into the factory precincts. At our first destination we witnessed the genesis of the 406 bodywork. We visited the area where large rolls of sheet metal were delivered and stored, and then went to where the sheet metal was cut and stamped into shapes to make panels for the 406.

The most impressive machine in this area was the Schuler 5,200 tonne multiple die suction press. This machine can perform over 15 cutting operations per minute and when it was working the ground shook under foot.

We then visited the body assembly line where panels were assembled onto large trolleys on a sort of a railway line. Much of the work in this area was performed by industrial robots. At this point we parted company from the body assembly line. The bodies continued on to be painted, trimmed etc.

Our next visit was to the beginnings of the engine and running gear assembly. We saw each Peugeot begin as a bar-code on a wire guided trolley. The trolleys moved around the factory floor allowing the appropriate front hubs, steering, engine etc to be fitted. This method allows any combination of the various petrol and diesel engine models to be assembled on the one production line at the same time.

At the end of the engine and running gear assembly we renewed our acquaintance with the body assemblies as they came to be merged with the engine and running gear. After a few finishing touches, we saw the cars being driven off the end of the production line and parked.

The working environment provided in the Peugeot factory is a far cry from the inhuman image of a production line created by the likes of Henry Ford. The environment is safe and the work rate is not excessive. In most areas we saw, the environment was clean and quiet, and good amenities were provided for staff.

This visit was my first look at a large-scale production line in action and I found it fascinating. I recommend the tour to anyone visiting the museum. Please note that Peugeot's web site does give opening hours and directions to the museum but does not cover the factory tour. When planning a visit check with Peugeot (best done with e-mail) to find out when the tours are operating.

Bill McNamee