Just south of the town of Chelsea, Michigan, surrounded by agricultural area, is a 3,850-acre operation where the Chrysler Group of the newly formed automaker Stellantis, has developed its upcoming portfolio of new vehicles since 1954. The Chelsea Proving Grounds operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, as it conducts 85% of the group’s vehicle testing scenarios including impact barrier tests; safety sled; emissions build and testing; emissions development and certification; powertrain calibration; performance and fuel economy; corrosion tests; and brake systems development and certification.
This past week, the Chelsea Proving Grounds staff which is made up of about 400 employees celebrated the completion of its 25,000th crash test since 1962. The first test conducted, consisted of then Chrysler Corporation engineers running a vehicle down a 32% grade and crashing into another vehicle to understand vehicle impacts. Surprisingly, the company ran only seven tests during that year.
In 1966, the Chelsea Proving Grounds then assembled a large barrier to test front-end collisions at speed. It was in 1974, that the proving grounds opened its own indoor facility to conduct a number of crash test scenarios. The first test done inside the new complex was 877th vehicle crash-tested at the proving grounds. Fast forward, 47 years later, the Chelsea Proving Ground team completed its 25,000th test in late April of this year.
In the spring of 2013, Chrysler Group hired MESSRING Systembau GmbH based in Munich, Germany to comprehensively modernize and upgrade the central testing facility. The upgrade helped the Chelsea Proving Group engineering and technicians to develop nearly 70 vehicles earning five-star vehicle ratings under the U.S. New Car Assessment Program (NCAP).
It was announced in 2018, that the Chelsea Proving Grounds would be investing $30 million into the facility to develop new testing of autonomous vehicles and advanced safety technology. The new facility joins the crash test operations to develop safer vehicles for the future.