The Michigan-based Center for Automotive Research has attributed that phenomenon to a design practice that's particular to Asian automakers. Those manufacturers, the Center says, tend to think in terms of systems, rather than individual parts.
"There's a misperception about Japanese quality," said Jay Baron, CEO of the Center for Automotive Research, in a 2005 Design News article. "People believe that Japanese automakers build all their parts very precisely, and it just isn't true. We found they don't care about making each part to a precise spec. They just want the assembly to be in spec."
Champion agrees with that assessment. "It's the assembly that counts," he told us. "Among the Japanese automakers, there's great attention to detail and time spent making sure that nothing rubs and everything is beautifully laid out."
He added, however, that those differences are a result of corporate culture. "It's just a matter of what's most important to the company," he said. "When Toyota went through its sudden unintended acceleration problem a couple of years ago, its engineers put up quality boards. They had external reviews. They put all sorts of measures in place to maintain their reliability leadership."
In contrast, North American companies tend to appease stockholders who want short-term profits -- often at the expense of long-term reliability, he said. As a result, the focus shifts to cost-cutting, instead of to engineering and quality.
"It comes down to what upper management instills in its work force," Champion said. "Those companies can get there if they want. They just need the single-minded focus to come down from upper management."
I retired from one of the "majors" in the appliance industry. The company I worked for had component managers for: elements, gas-fired burners, platform structures, maintops, electronic controls, etc etc. These engineers knew their components but it was up the to platform manager and program leaders to "mesh" these components into the proper package to provide a workable appliance. All too often, that did not happen with any real ease. Schedules were king and designs sometimes suffered due to unrealistic schedules. There did not seem to be the "systems" approach to an overall assembly of components. The products were safe but not very competitive with West European designs--at least when reliability was concerned. It seems to me we are looking at a very similar problem with the American Auto industry.
Sad story to hear, especially our loved American cars were at the bottom of engineering. But I do agree of what was said that Japanese and other Asian cars have a better lay-out of engine parts and they are "user-friendly" and is manageable with do it yourself auto repair. Hope those other bmws, and chevys cope up and do some remodeling.
The explanation for the increase in gas prices is probably similar to the explanation of why Dogbert,(evil HR director), in the Dilbert comic strip, explains why he does such evil things. The answer: "Because I can". Evil needs no additional motivation. YES, I certainly am being judgemental.
The problem is not that "we are addicted to oil", the reason is that we are quite attached to the degree of personal freedom that we have available to us by reason of our high level of personal mobility. That is, we can jump in our car and go almost anywhere at almost any time. In huge sections of the developed world you can't do that. As Americans, we are indeed addicted to personal freedom. Of course, that does include the freedom to do things that some say is not good for us.
Of course, on some rare occasions even engineers may make mistakes. That is what separates us from MBAs; they always make mistakes.
I have to admit that I'm okay with profit and even a little bit of greed. I think where so many companies fall short is in their focus on the short term. Too many CEOs fear a quick exit, so they focus on the short term and ignore the long-term consequences. I don't understand why a bond of trust between consumer and automaker -- built over a long period of time -- should be deemed less profitable.
I guess you're right, Old Curmudgeon. Yet it does seem odd that the price of gasoline is moving at a different trajectory than the price of oil. By simple logic, at some point there would be some equalization.
Rob: I'm NOT a stock market maven myself. That's what I pay a financial whiz kid to do it for me, BUT it is my undestanding that there ARE speculators that will (hedge a) "bet" on just about anything that one can dream up, including where a fly will land at the airport in Singapore. So, it would seem to me that there also ARE speculators that can cause the price of gasoline & other direct petroleum distillates to fluctuate at will.
I agree, Old Curmudgeon. I'm confused by the :speculation" agruement. I can understnad speculating on crude and thus driving up the price. But can you speculation as refined gasoline? The price of crude is not the problem. The price of crude has only gone up about 5%, while the price of gas has gone up nearly 30%. And that's in Europe as well, not just in North America.
Rob: And that's another reason why there is so much dissent in the discussion about crude prices vs. gasoline prices. The price of crude for the past several months has hovered around the $105/bbl. figure, yet the price of gasoline continues to rise at a rate of at least a nickel a week, sometimes more. There doesn't seem to be a coherent explanation for this; one could make an argument that this flies in the face of the "Law of Supply & Demand" of classic Economics 101. It almost seems that it is more beholden to the Law of Expedient Political Rhetoric".
Rob: Supposedly the "reason" why gasoline is so highly priced currently is because they're in the midst of the winter to summer changeover mode @ the refineries, AND because there are plans in place to PERMANENTLY close at least one (or more) domestic refineries, including one on the East Coast (NJ or PA?) facility.
However, we've also heard the news reports, etal. in which it has been shown that the industry is EXPORTING domestically-produced gasoline to foreign depots.
Is this a contrivance? Is it a conspiracy? Is it collusion? Who knows! But, we're all paying the price, NO pun intended!
Tesla Motors plans to roll out a “compelling, affordable electric car” that will sell for about half the price of its high-profile Model S by the end of 2016, company chairman Elon Musk said last week.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This radio show will show what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.