Many consumers might have heard the term “spot welding” before, with a large number of them unfamiliar with the welding industry perhaps thinking that it is something akin to touch-up painting. In other words, a small and isolated problem with a product or manufacturing process can be quickly attended to through a spot weld.
In fact, spot welding is a critically important part of the vehicle manufacturing process, with the number of spot welds and their quality having a direct correlation in virtually all instances with the outcome of a car accident.
In simplest terms, spot welds are created by pressing metal sheets together and running electric current through them. That creates heat and resulting adhesion through metal fusion, without adding any extra welding materials. Unquestionably, the more high-quality spot welds a vehicle has, the stronger and safer it is. A well-made car might have up to 5,000 spots welds.
Unfortunately, and depending on where it is made, it might also have far fewer, which compromises its structural integrity and creates the potential for far more dire outcomes in vehicle crashes. Spot welding consumes electricity, and that costs money, driving some manufacturers in developing countries to reduce the number of welds in order to increase profits.
Such compromised vehicles are unlikely to be on the roadways of Ohio or other states domestically, with one auto safety expert, David Ward, noting that the problem is central to emerging markets in other parts of the world.
Automotive safety, says Ward, increases over time in markets as they progress and become increasingly high-tech and regulated. A strong safety focus and reforms in the automotive industry in the United States over many years, for example, have led to an appreciable decline in crash fatalities currently as opposed to those occurring in the 1960s.
The same progression will likely need to occur in less developed markets, says Ward.
“The industry does the least it can get away with until they’re forced to do something different,” he says.
Source: Inquirer Business, "What makes cars safe?" Aida Sevilla Mendoza," July 17, 2013