How Long Does it Take to Build a Car From Start to Finish?

by Erik ArvidsonUpdated June 22, 2023
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Between 1980 and 2010, auto manufacturers made significant improvements and innovations to their vehicle assembly lines to reduce the amount of time and labor it takes to manufacture a vehicle. In general, the major automakers average about 30 labor hours for each vehicle thanks to these manufacturing efficiencies.


According to IndustryWeek, in the 1980s, General Motors averaged about 40 labor hours per vehicle at a Massachusetts manufacturing plant. However, Toyota Motor Corp. has pioneered so-called “lean manufacturing practices” aimed at eliminating manufacturing processes -- such as extra inventory or unnecessary transportation costs -- that don’t add value for the customer. This has forced other automakers to make their manufacturing systems more efficient.

Automaker Averages

According to Strategic Work Systems Inc., an auto manufacturing consultant, Nissan Motors was the most productive vehicle manufacturer in North America as of 2007, averaging 28.46 labor hours per vehicle. This was followed by Toyota (29.4 hours per vehicle), Honda Motor Co. (32.51 hours per vehicle), and Chrysler Group (33.71 hours per vehicle).


According to Maintenance Technology Magazine, the “Big Three” U.S. automakers, General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., and Chrysler Group, improved their per-vehicle productivity by 50 percent between 1980 and 2009.

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