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advancedboy

Us Car Industry

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Despite so many great car designs and ideas, why is US car industry dying? I would like to start a meaningful discussion here, not trashing. By the way every single US manufacturer has the same symptoms, which I will mention later. Thanks, You as designers, should not only be able to create things, but feel intuitively what product and why could be destined for a failure and how to avoid it,at least as much as it depends on you. Thanks in advance for co-operation:)

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Guest Gringoire

US car industry is going down because of the world crisis... and because the US is the core of this crisis and there it has the biggest level... Europe's doing better than US but we haven't reached the peak yet. There's no problem with design... designers can't do a @#$@#$ thing to stop it... Car companies made wrong schedules... they didn't prepare properly for this crisis and now they're expenses are bigger than the income... And the whole thing got stuck... there's no key design for this... the only key is money... cash flow... this is the key!

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Guest Skint

Forgetting about the economy breakdown for a moment I will throw this spanner into the works :) :

 

Stop designing HUGE gas guzzlers and start producing eco friendly cars then you may sell a few more :P

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Alright. let`s talk about problems facing US car industry today.

1. Quality and reliability. Us car manufacturers have continuously neglected quality of their products, which has lead to low reliability of their products, thus creating a generation of people who are even scared to buy anything coming from Detroit. And it is not only the service costs to replace failing parts, it is also a scary fit and finish of American vehicles that scares away customers already from dealer`s lots. American car companies have manufactured cars for decades with unbelievably huge gaps between parts, subpar fit and finish and mediocre texture. the texture of leather, gray pontiacesque plastics is already `legendary`. Not to mention huge thick chewy rubber door sealers, huge gaps between headlights and bumpers, etc.How on earth they could sell a mid $30ies Oldsmobile Aurora, if I could even pull through a mexican immigrant through the gaps between headlights and front bumper!

2.Rebadging cancer. So many Us made vehicles represent a fake diversity, because most of them are regrilles of each other and people definitely don`t want to drive a 50k Lincoln which has the same tin as Ford truck. Navigator anyone? There was no difference from each division within big 3 , besides different grilles, bumpers and options list. People got tired of that. Does anyone remember when was the last time mercury had developed anything of their own? Nope!Here we go sales charts.

3. Obsolete technologies. While most of japanese cars already had DOHC, Detroit was still pushing OHV with cast iron rusted blocks. Only now Detroit implements variable valve system while it has been already for more than 10 years on Japanese cars. Detroit always plays catch up, and implements everything later, if at all. When was the last time US based company angineered an independent rear wheel drive platform? A sedan platform? A spanking new aluminum engine?They always come late to the party, whether it is a 6 speed gearbox, or a variator, or dual clutch.When will detroit built anything similar to Honda`s AWD system? probably never.

4.Poor diversity of body types. While Asian companies try to diversify their model range by adding different body types- like hatch, coupe, wagon, etc, Us manufacturers have had scarce diversity for decades. Where is the freakin` Taurus wagon? Oh, it is not popular , because people prefer minivans? Well, how come, Honda has it. Subaru has it, BMW has it.etc.Japanese try to diversify and increase model range, by adding new models. When asians replace one model they replace it with at least one model, while detroit just cuts and cuts,and replaces fewer and fewer cars.

5.Model overhaul cycle. How long does it take for an American company to change one generation of a vehicle to another? Longer than for Asians. Will I still be alive when Ford decides to replace Ranger truck or Chevy replaces Savanna van? Of course, they try to improve and change generations faster, yet if you are behind Japanese, even considering that your product is less competetive is quiet killing.Besides US manufacturers have adopted a strange strategy of faking new generation models by simply regrilling old junk. As it was done by ford Freestar, Chrysler Voyager( and all the plethora of clones)u elsep to the last generation when they were compelled to do something. Even famous bang for the buck sports coupe pontiac GTO( also sold under Holden)was nothing but slightly tuned up 94~Opel Omega. Even the front fenders are identical. Guess how old actually is your Buick Terraza minivan.?. comes straight from 1994.

6.Lack of domestic engineering.Most of quality parts within American cars are either made in subsidiaries abroad or made by foreign companies. So before you say `hurray` to improved statistics of US car companies, consider why has it happened. Of course, Ford today is more reliable, but for one reason- it has most of the engines from Mazda, platforms from Mazda, gearboxes from Aisin, etc. The less domestic components a vehicle has, the more reliable it turns out to be. Could Chrysler sell even a single vehicle if it weren`t Mitsubishi and Mercedes platforms? Where are the legendary American engineers that can`t engineer even their own platforms for Jeep company and have to borrow one from Merc?

Have you noticed that none of really successful companies has imported platforms. Bimmer, Toyota, you name it, while every single mediocre company starts borrowing floorpans before it dies. Just look at B ritish car industry, if you could call it even an industry, rather leftovers.At first you borrow components, then resort to selling imported regrilles, and later push up daisies. besides ,more and more american cars are actually imports sold under American brands faking `Detroit iron.` Half of Chevy is nothing more than Korean Daewoo, the other half is German Opels. Does Saturn as a brand have at least one engineer or technician who would be able to create something? Anything?There is nothing more precious in any company than domestic expertize on how to build things. If you offshore it for saving some bucks for some cats to have golden parachutes, no wonder your company bleeds red ink and starts spiralling down.

7.No accountability. What happens if a CEO screws up a company? He gets fired , but still keeps all the bonuses and parachutes and shares. How bad would you feel being fired from a company yet given a compensation of 20 million bucks?What happens if I steal a jacket from Macy`s? Right, I go to prison. Here we have the answer.

8. False victories. The problem is that Detroit compares their last iron to their previous generation of vehicles.( or their presumed Detroit brethren). What they should do , is to compare their products to the current imports competition.If you take cadillac CtS ,of course it is better than Seville, but it is no match for Audi`s interiors, bimmer`s drivetrain or merc`s luxury sense.

Once you realize that a company needs to be run by engineers ,not beancounters or shareholders, you might have achance to revalesce. Unfotunately we have been sitting too long on accretion disk and now have been sucked in a black hole, where the domino effect of collapse is stronger than counterforce of couple scrambled last islands of engineering. Cheers, at least I wish detroit to go down like Titanic- with orchestra.....:)

P.S. i didn`t have time to go into details about UAW`s, labour quality control, education standards, and listening to customer`s needs. maybe next time...

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Guest AutomóvilVerde

I think they were in the lead among car companies in the past, and they just started to slack off + all the reasons advancedboy gave

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While you can break it down into micro design issues and the like that the bottom line is this:

 

The economy tanked, and when gas prices skyrocketed the American MARKET tanked because domestic automakers were funding their wallets with high margin pickups and SUV's.

 

Before the recession the Ford F150 pickup was the best selling vehicle in the WORLD.

 

Toyota lost more money in the last 3 months than GM.

 

The reason US companies floated to the top FIRST, is because of UAW cost issues. It's not like other companies were doing great. In March Honda (Including Acura) and Toyota (including Lexus) were both down almost 40%. Thats about on par with most of the American non-truck companies. The Germans were all down about 25%.

 

If anything you can see the value of design and engineering in the fact that companies like Subaru, VW, and Mini were all nearly flat in the same month. But you can also see the value of pricing in the fact that Kia and Hyundai were down less than 5%.

 

I'm not saying I disagree with what you mentioned above - but the bottom line is panel gap tolerances aren't what caused these companies to fail.

 

Since you asked a very targeted question I'll throw in some answers to defend the fact that America CAN build a good car, even if they produce a lot of junk in between.

 

When was the last time US based company angineered an independent rear wheel drive platform? A sedan platform? A spanking new aluminum engine?They always come late to the party, whether it is a 6 speed gearbox, or a variator, or dual clutch.When will detroit built anything similar to Honda`s AWD system?

 

IRS RWD Platform - 2010 Camaro

AWD Aluminum Turbocharged Direct Injection Sedan - Taurus SHO.

 

In terms of performance? The Dodge Viper ACR and Corvette ZR1 are faster than all of there European and Japanese rivals around the Nurburgring. The Cadillac CTS-V is the fastest production sedan to lap the ring as well.

 

So while there have been years of Oldsmobile Aleros, Pontiac G3's, Chevy Impalas proving how bad American cars can be, the companies still have some proof that they can make a decent vehicle when they want to. But if you think their issues started with their designs then you need to realize that this goes WAY beyond the product platform to the cores of the economic crisis and the way their businesses were run. Ford is a great example of the fact that they saw this coming, adapted, and as such haven't needed government cash to survive. Chrysler is the worst example and will be gone soon. GM we will see - they'll most likely survive but only if they can emerge on the other end as a cost efficient company that produces more products people want to buy.

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Guest Taro

i don't have any study in this area, but base on my own experiences... people tend to favor Asian cars and European cars more here in Canada and maybe Asia. (Asia is one big market)

 

in canada - people buy US cars, and drive them for years and years, then all the sudden, Honda comes up with a better looking, more fuel efficent, blahblahblah car. Furthermore, EVERYONE is driving one (take Honda Civic for example?).

 

in Korea (im not korean, but this is what a friend told me ) - majority of the people in Korea drives Hundai and other Korean brand, it is not a law there to drive Korean cars only, but they do it. That's why they are still alive.

 

-------------------------

 

now this is just my own thoughts, and it may reflect the thoughts of others...

 

if I had only 20k cash avaible to buy a car, I would first get a Japanese Fuel Efficient one, because it will save me more money in the long run. If I had maybe 60 or 70k to buy a car, I would choose to get maybe BMW, or Audi, something along the line. I wonder why I never consider US cars??

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Guest jonfraz

Car companies worldwide are feeling the pinch because of the recession. High cost (luxury) items like cars are the first things people stop buying so the cash just stops coming in - this is particularly detrimental for businesses with high fixed costs like car manufacturers.

 

However, the American car industry has been in comparative decline ever since the Japanese and East Asian manufacturers first entered the market. In fact, Toyota recently knocked GM off the top spot of the worlds largest Automakers.

 

The US was the first to mass produce cars, with the Fordist system hugely influencing all future manufacturing operations. Demand for cars and most other consumer goods also exceeded supply until the 1960s, so production volume was the driving manufacturing strategy. In my opinion, it's this legacy that has hampered the American Auto Industry.

 

When the Japanese first entered the car market in the 60s and 70s they recognised that quality was the key source of competitiveness and had production systems geared towards achieving this and reducing waste. The US car industry have taken these methods on board since (Lean Manufacturing, Toyota production system, etc), but may never catch up with the Japanese in terms of efficiency.

 

There are obviously other factors, but in my opinion waste and efficiency is the main reason the US car manufacturers are struggling more than most at the moment.

 

I'm a final year manufacturing engineering student, but that doesn't mean you should agree with me - these are just my ramblings!

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Guest Buff

GM looked to be facing class 11 more than a few years ago, so its hardly down to the ecconomic crisis and that alone.

 

Sure Toyota have had a huge drop in sales, but by and large inline with most the others. Toyota on the otherhand have cash reservs and are still launching NEW models DURING the downturn? Stupid move? Well they've prooven it works in previous reccesions. I can think of other companies that continue to thrive while others have suffered, Seimens for example.

 

The 'Big Three' have failed for the polar oposite rewasons the Toyota have sucseeded.

 

Remeber that Toyota themselves faced bankruptcy in the fiftis due in no small part to US imposed trading restrictions. With the development of JUSE and help from leading US management consultants, they pulled themselves up by the boot straps.

 

Of course in the last few years GM began to turn things around and after many rears reportin huge losses, they began showing modest profits. How? Well perhaps it was something to do with Toyota helping GM sort out their supply chain problems and production polocies.

 

I would sugesst any engineer/designer read 'out of the crisis' by Dr W Edwards Demming, and 'The machine that changed the world' by Dan Jones and James Womak

 

When The US auto industry began realising the competative threat from east was real, they lobbied for import restrictions...thats nice... tell your customers 'hey you guys, keep buying our inferior product not theirs'

 

The US watchmaking industry almost crippled the Swiss watch industry by standardisation, automation and whilst having that upperhand, they decided that wasnt enough and had import restriction placed on Swiss products. Unlike the Swiss, who fought back and automated, standardised, re -designed and innovated to remain competative, the US auto industry thought they could jsut legislate ther way out of a competative battle... a sure fire way to ensure total lack of innovation.

 

Sure the US automaker has sharpend up in the last few years with a few good products.... A FEW

 

The majority are just not pulling the numbers in an increasingly savvy consumer base...

 

too little... too late

 

turning back to Toyota... look at just how much they have actually achived. They have in the home country one of the highest labour rates in the world, the have one of the highest raw material cost base in the world, yet they turn out more cars, for more profit, at lower retail prices with higher ratings in consumer surveys for customer service, relaiability and quality.

 

Average failure rate amoungst mainstream manufactures for cars under three years old is pretty close for Ford, GM, VW, BMW, Toyota, etc, etc... extend that to five years and Toyota have a lower average of failures by some 50% over their rivals....t ake that to 7 years and that extends to more than 100% lower number of failures per unit

 

So.. is it design thats the problem? I doubt it... most europeans think Toyota are bland to be polite, and compareing the sexy looking cars from the US automakers, Toyota dont really gat a look in... As I said, the average Joe is a little more savvy these days and isnt falling for the performance numbers and curvy looks over and above the pragmatic implications of relaibility, ecconomy, resale value.... in fact the overall cost of ownership.

 

Hardly surprising that Hyundia are not dropping sales as much as the others... the lower purchase price means the overall cost of ownership makes scence for Mr Average, couple that with the increasing innovation and build quality they offer, only pride gets in the way... and many folks are seeing that pride is costing too much for their essential transportation needs.

 

Sure, Mr Above Average Earner, will plump for a Honda, Audi, Merc, BMW etc, but even they take a serious look at the realitiees of owning crap cars isnt a good idea.. how are Jaguar sales in the US? how about Lexus.

 

I guess I'll be villified for saying this, but as with the British car industry.. I'd let the US auto industry flounder as its their own undoing. Britain has moved on form Automaking in its own right, taking on instead Nissan, Honda, BMW Mini, Toyota and even Renault, Ford and GM

 

When Fiat stat making cars for the US consumer, Detroit will be leaner for it and in the long term healthier and more prosperous... but its gonna take the best part of 30 years IMO.

 

For the US automaker to be bailed out, even if they did REALLY adapt and actually pioneer best practice, let alone follow it it's gonna take more than 50 years to turn it completley around

 

The US automaker is dead.... long live the US autoindustry (albeit under Itallian management)

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Thanks, I like these substantiated conversations. Detroit has been manufacturing trucks not because of fashion statement or caprice, but for one simple reason- you could continue to push old junk technologies through trucks. look underneath your average F- series truck or Suburban, what do you see there? Right, live axle, no independent suspension, still leaf springs, and probably still drum brakes. How about your Dodge Caravan? Journey?

And Camaro doesn`t have American built suspension or platform. Sorry to inform, but it was built by Australian Holden which used the 94 Opel Omega platform and beefed it up. Just because Gm grabs Opel Astra, or Vectra platform and then tunes it and imparts them with nice greek names like Delta, Sigma or epsilon, doesn`t make it a Detroit engineering work. My deepest respect to those german and japanese engineers whose names go unnoticed, while the glory goes to Detroit ,as if they worked their asses off to create upper beams for Chrysler 300 or lower beams for Avengers.The same `allergy ` to physical engineering can be seen throughout all USA. You name the industry, and I will simply tell who actually built it, starting from General electric fridges, RCA decks or Magnavox Tvs, or Polaroid or Vivitar cameras, Zenith Tv sets or Amtrak trains.Is it a coincidence Harley- Davidson is building old bikes, and saying that old low revving shovelheads are a statement of bike immortality, or is it rather an engineering disability to create tangible, competetive products? Will gillette ever build an electric shaver( you know , with real ,moving parts) or endlessly add razors and slap some mega fancy hyperturbo additional names? What is next? a 10 blade hyperspace shawer? how about building simply electric razors with no names, like Philips? Wait , Philips is not American, so now I get it!

When Boeing needed to engineer hunch on the back of their 747 freighter version for carrying 787 fuselages, they couldn`t scrap the engineers, so they had to hire 200 russian engineers to do the job! every year US has a shortage of 50K engineers which they try to compensate by H1b visas. What the hell is going on in the US education system? The same 787, Boeing simply couldn`t build the wings, so it had to be engineered completely by Fuji heavy industries.i could continue endlessly with contents of ipods, intel research labs in japan, and generico nslaught of fake American brands .

So, my point is that, collapse of detroit is just a countrywide symptom of engineering mediocrity which finds its roots in subpar education, and lack of accountability in CEO offices.Was it China, Rick Wagoneer would have been taken to a stadium already. I wonder how must those hard working engineers from Yamaha feel when they build a cool engine,but laurels go to Volvo or taurus SHO...How do those engineers at Lotus and Lamborghini feel when their sweat is translated as `What a great American Dodge Viper we have!........How do those Toyota engineers feel who designed every single part in Toyota Matrix,yet GM announces it a Joint Venture, as if they jointly sat at the drawing board and designed something.I wonder, what is the point of Demming philosophy or Baldridge`s for that matter, if there are not good enough engineers who actually build and design vehicles here, in USA.

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Well you seem to have it all figured out, so I guess theres no real point in having a discussion.

 

BTW I'm still laughing at "The glory goes to Detroit". Have you ever been to Detroit? Been inside the walls of the big 3 or any auto maker for that matter? When was the last time an engineer got "glory" for designing an A-arm on a car suspension? The best anyone in the auto industry can hope for is not losing their job, and maybe - just maybe getting their name attached to a successful project.

 

The only thing you've done in your rant is described Globalization - but you've somehow made it out to be a bad thing.

 

I have a job in America. On Monday I'm going to call my Engineer in Taiwan. He's going to fly to Japan to visit a finishing vendor, and then to Singapore to visit our tooling supplier, before finally stopping in China at the assembly plant. They're going to ship the products to the Phillipines and then send them worldwide.

 

Shame on me for taking all the glory. :ermm:

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Cyberdemon- then don`t be surprised that US has to borrow 2 billion dollars from China on daily basis just to satisfy her spending. And then have a neverending external debt that now stands at $12bn. By the way, the government spends so much money on servicing debt that it is actually starving funds for R&D and education department. Don`t be surprised that foreclosures are sweeping across your nation, because soon there will be no highly skilled and paid engineering jobs left in the USA. Logically, having a job as a sales clerk in selling Asia- built devices, noone is going to pay more than 8 bucks an hour. And ,logically, those people ain`t buyin` new houses or Malibus. You see, to design an actual Motorola Genghis you need hundreds of skilled and highly paid engineers, who would later pour that money into other industries- like buying houses, boats, you name it. How many people do you need in USA just to sell your phones? And what are their salaries compared to engineers if they had to build it here in USA? This is called not globalization, let`s call it the way it is- it is the killing of backbone of the United States of America- her middle class! How else you call a scenery where hundreds of Wall-marts have taken over with people working for 8 bucks an hour, factories closing( an average GM worker earned about 35$ an hour )and 2 top managers left who scoop the cream at 50 bucks an hour? Polarization of wealth ,which is synonimous to extinction of the middle class. And Cyberdemon, imagine if those Motorolas were designed here in US, it would give not only hundreds of jobs to engineers, it would spread expertize, it would actually give jobs to stamping companies like Cincinnatti-Milacron or Gidding`s and Lewis, and workers and engineers would have jobs there too.( and not 8 dollar an hour service jobs!) How many jobs Americans lose at Delphi, Stanley or Visteon whenever another american car gets replaced by a korean rebadge and sold as Chevy? What happens when all IBM does is sell logos to Asian companies? How many thousands of highly paid engineers and technicians you need to sell a logotype around? Who f former IBM computer designers has bought a new house recently? And it goes on and on, like Energizer bunny:( Do I make any sense?

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Do I make any sense?

 

Not really.

 

You started a topic on the US car industry, circled to problems with US cars, and then somehow got into how you think the American economy should be fixed through engineering?

 

You've been going on a very long winded rant that doesn't make sense - because large portions of it either 1: Aren't true, or 2: are based on your own opinion and not fact.

 

Large corporations are slow to react, it's a simple fact. Businesses, just like the economy have swells of positive growth and negative growth. The past year has been an unprecidented time worldwide because of shifts in our culture, monetary system, and governments have changed the ways businesses are run and how people run their lives.

 

At the end of the day this has nothing to do with engineering, it has nothing to do with design, it has to do with the economy, which is something that no one can fix, no matter how hard they try. You can't fix it because it's not BROKEN, it's just adjusting itself. It will take several years if not a decade for that to happen.

 

You can rant about it all you want, but I'm not sure what you're trying to prove or get at.

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You are too general about economy, recession, sort of boom and bust cycles.Have you noticed that usually only American car companies die, but never ever japanese. Can you mention at least one japanese company that would have perished in last 30 years? No! And for only one reason- they always have protected themselves by strong products.|Even your motorola is on ropes, and it is a matter of time, before their hit or miss product startegy fails.My point is, if further engineering is neglected as before, there will be no product companies left,meaning, for you, as designers there will be noone to work for, except Asians, who will offer a much lower salary. Of course there is recession, but Germany or japan hasnot laid off so many workers and offshored all their facilites and expertize.Germany is the biggest exporter in the world of industrial products.

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Guest Taro
highly skilled and paid engineering jobs left in the USA.

 

i thought it would be the high skilled ones who will be kept? and all the other ones will get kicked out.

 

Have you noticed that usually only American car companies die, but never ever japanese

 

look at the car's design, the car's price, and all that fancy stuff. They have alot of things that American cars don't offer. Also, you see, Asia is a huge ass market, that is a FACT. Over there in Asia, buying cars that are made in Asia are MUCH cheaper than buying an American or European brands.

 

Even your motorola is on ropes, and it is a matter of time, before their hit or miss product startegy fails

 

i believe every big company is facing risks and making big decisions on a daily basis. Not just motorola, but every single company.

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