Gill Industries Inc. Ramps Up Production of Steel Frames for New XRT950 Rough-Terrain Vehicle by Club Car Inc.

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Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Gill Industries has begun to produce steel chassis for the new XRT950 utility vehicle made by Club Car at an automated production line in Trenton, Ga., just southwest of Chattanooga, Tenn.

Gill Industries Inc. is ramping up an automated production line at its Trenton, Ga. facility to supply steel chassis for a new series of utility vehicles by Club Car Inc. that targets the agricultural and outdoor recreation markets.

The Trenton facility will have the capacity to fabricate up to 30 frames a day for the XRT950 side-by-side utility vehicle that satisfies a demand for more horsepower and versatility for the mid-sized utility vehicle market, said Scott Cronan, regional business development manager for Gill Industries in charge of the Club Car account.

Introduced by Club Car in October, the XRT950 offers a number of features that are resonating with consumers, such as a twin-cylinder 14-horsepower engine that is the largest in its vehicle class, independent suspension, four-wheel hydraulic disc brakes, locking rear differential and nine inches of ground clearance for demanding farm work and off-road touring.

"We are very excited to be supplying this critical component for the XRT950," said Jacques Saint Denis, director of operations of the Trenton facility. "It fits in perfectly with our mission at Trenton as a center for excellence in precision tube bending and welding." Saint Denis said the plant employs about 115 people, and the XRT950 work will help to offset a potential downturn in orders from automotive customers. While he doesn't expect the line to create new jobs in the near future, Saint Denis said the new business creates a solid foundation for potential job growth in the long term.

Saint Denis said technical personnel at the Trenton facility worked closely with the Augusta, Ga.-based Club Car during the initial design of the frame to determine the most cost effective ways to manufacture it. Gill Industries was able to design, install and debug an entire production line in about 10 months - one of the fastest implementations of a production line in the company's history.

The production line employs hydraulic presses, machining centers and robotic welding units to precisely bend and weld 2-inch-by-3-inch rectangular steel tubing to make the XRT950 frames that each weigh about 200 pounds.

"One particular challenge is the remarkable amount of welding we do on each frame - about 47 feet total," Cronan said. "All of the vehicle components connect to the frame, so everything - bends, brackets, holes - have to be just right for smooth assembly. There isn't a lot of room for error." After fabrication, the frames are electrostatically painted and powder coated before being shipped to Club Car's assembly plant in Augusta.

The market for Club Car rough-terrain utility vehicles continues to grow in the United States as the products offer more amenities, such as higher torque and horsepower, improved suspension, and coverings to shield occupants from the weather. A subsidiary of the Ingersoll-Rand Co., Club Car estimated that its overall revenues rose about 10 percent last year due in part to the increased sales of its utility vehicle offerings.

Founded in 1958, Club Car manufactures golf cars and utility vehicles that are used in golf courses, farms, colleges and universities, apartment complexes, resorts, airports, and manufacturing facilities. In addition to the commercial and industrial applications, Club Car also sells vehicles to consumers for recreational use. By some measures, Club Car is the largest producer of electric vehicles in the world.

Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Gill Industries specializes in the design and manufacture of metal components used in the automotive, office and medical furniture, powersports vehicle and other industries in applications that require smooth and consistent motion, such as seating mechanisms, headrests, seat frames, latches, and in-console assemblies. The company employs about 700 people at its headquarters and manufacturing facilities in Grand Rapids, Trenton and Naucalpan, Mexico, and sales offices in Paris, France, Grand Rapids and Wixom, Mich. For more information about Gill Industries, please visit the company's website at http://www.gill-industries.com.

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