A new car isn’t ready to drive straight out of the factory. In fact, readying it for the road takes days of thorough preparation behind the scenes
SINGAPORE — This may or may not come as a surprise to you, but no car is delivered from the factory in ready-to-drive condition.
That’s not entirely unusual. After all, running shoes are sold with the laces unthreaded, and instant noodles can’t exactly be eaten straight from the packet.
Cars are similar, only much more complicated. They require careful preparation before they’re ready for service.
That’s where an authorised dealer can help, by carrying out a thorough process called “Pre-Delivery Inspection” (or PDI). The term makes it sound fairly straightforward, but PDI isn’t simply a matter of squinting hard at a new car to look for flaws.
In fact, we asked Borneo Motors for a rare look at the company’s PDI centre to see what really goes on between the time a car arrives at port and the moment it’s delivered to an eager customer.
What we found was eye-opening: preparing a car for delivery is a labour-intensive exercise that takes days if you do it properly. Having visited one of the largest PDI centres in the business, one thing’s for sure: we’ll never look at a pristine car in the showroom the same way again.
Here’s what happens to make your new car look new:
Step 1 – Preparation
Once a car has been ordered, it’s retrieved from storage and taken by trailer to the PDI centre. At this stage, the car still has its wrap guard — adhesive sheets that protect the paint from the elements — and plastic covers that keep the wheels scratch-free.
Parts are ordered (and delivered) from Borneo Motors’ Central Parts Depot, with genuine Toyota parts and accessories installed where appropriate. That ensures not just quality, but accountability, too.
Step 2 – Installation
Here’s where the real work begins. We saw teams of trained staff hard at work at various PDI processes, working on cars in what almost looked like a production line from a mini car factory.
PDI workflows and the various processes are optimized to prevent bottlenecks and to ensure that the vehicles are worked on and completed as quickly as possible. This allows the PDI centre to have a high productivity and quick turnaround time for the vehicles.
In no particular order, we had a look at these PDI processes:
IU installation — The magic box that takes money from your CashCard is wired in carefully and neatly. Smaller dealers without a PDI centre sometimes drive or tow a car to a third party like Vicom to have the installation done, but larger players like Borneo do it in-house. That helps to keep your new car new.
Entertainment system — Cars are often delivered from a factory without the sound system installed. That’s because there may be differences in the radio frequency bands used from region to region. Dealers usually install them, but given how important electronics are in a modern car, a proper installation is best done by trained hands, and with factory original systems. That way, everything works perfectly together.
Solar film — Amazingly, cars are fitted with solar film inside an air-conditioned room. The reason? It prevents dust intrusion, which minimises the chance that an annoying speck will be trapped in the film.
It’s doubtful that small-time importers would go to such lengths, or if they’re even able.
Borneo Motors uses top quality 3M film with sheets that are pre-cut to fit various Toyota models perfectly.
Leather Upholstery — At this busy station, cars have their fabric upholstery replaced with pre-sewn leather. It’s intricate work that requires skilful hands, and is the part of the PDI centre that most resembles some high-end car factories that we’ve visited, where automation takes a back seat to craftsmanship.
Various cabin parts such as door covers are also refinished in leather. It’s a worthwhile upgrade that many customers opt for, and it’s one example of how proper PDI work can actually enhance a car.
Accessories/general installation — Things like reverse sensors and licence plates need to be put on, too, with other accessories. Although different accessories for different areas of the car are installed, the fact that they are all done in-house ensures accountability.
If something should fail on a newly-delivered car, for example, a small-time dealer might shift the blame to a supplier but with proper PDI from an authorised distributor, any problems are much more likely to be professionally dealt with.
In fact, some unauthorised importers leave it to their salespeople to find their own suppliers to install accessories on a car. That’s about as far from a factory-sanctioned PDI process as it’s possible to get, and it’s safe to say that no carmaker intends for its products to be prepared in such a haphazard way.
Mechanical checks — The PDI process is meant to catch flaws, but also to ensure that a car is delivered in perfect working order. Do all the lights work? Is there enough washer fluid in the bottle? There are so many things to inspect that at Borneo’s PDI centre, technicians run through a checklist that sometimes stretches to four pages. That way, no stone is left unturned.
Step 3 – Grooming
With all accessories installed and the car thoroughly checked, it’s time for the wrap guards to come off so the car can be washed and polished.
The cars are buffed to a showroom shine before handover, but by now it’s clear that they don’t come off the ship that way. What most people think of as a brand new car only reaches that state after days of careful work and thorough preparation.
Step 4 – Final Quality Control checks
After all that work is carried out and checked, it’s time for… yet more checking. Prior to delivery, PDI demands a final Quality Control inspection so that customers will receive their cars in as good a condition as possible, and fully prepared for life on Singapore roads.
Yet, if PDI is done properly, the final QC check should be little more than a formality. After all, between the first and last steps of the process, many eyes will have scanned a car for defects. Typically, a car prepared by Borneo Motors will actually have been worked on by at least 10 people — many of whom are trained to look out for any defects that needs attention.
And if any cosmetic flaws are spotted along the way, they can be rectified at Borneo Motors’ Bodycare Centre, where perfect paint matching can be done.
With the cars ready for handover, customers collect them at the delivery stations of the PDI centre. As they walk from the customer lounge to their new cars, however, they pass a sign on the glass doors that reminds them to book their first free servicing.
It’s clear that for an authorised dealer like Borneo Motors, the relationship with a customer doesn’t end at handover, but begins there.
But the next time you see a new car that is someone’s pride and joy, think of all the important work that went on behind the scenes to make the owner’s first encounter with his car so special.
We sometimes refer to a car affectionately as our baby, but that might be the one thing a new car has in common with a newborn child — what happens before delivery is just as important as what happens after.