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."
Miller has it right about stockholders and the almighty quarterly profits drive. Monthly and quarterly short term profits are the main driver of about all upper management decisions made.IT is the greed thing, the same greed thast bought us the mortgage company bust and the toxic assets problems. Probably grred will destroy this great nation, unless it destroys one of the EU nations and we learn by watching. The problem is that greed and moral corruption are opposite sides of the same coin, and so it is not a large step from greedy decisions that may be legal to greedy decisions that are not legal. It sure sounds gloomy, doesn't it.
It is agreed that not all Asian cultures have the same philosophy. Companies 5000 miles away are hard to hold accountable for quality issues and sometimes the companies have actually folded before the container arrives at its final destination.
In the end it will be decided by the almighty dollar. Even as gas prices rise people will still by larger vehicles because that is what they choose to spend their money on. Even as gas prices rose last year, there was no great call to change what people were buying. And I don't see people changing what they drive because the industry tells them too. Dollars and cents will drive where we go. No pun intended...okay yes I did intend to put that pun there.
One of the big weaknesses of having a company managed by accounting types is it comes down completely to measureable by dollars and cents. How can one eqquate the value of customer perception of a brand name? It cannot be quantified. But it is in my opinion more valuable than dollars and cents.
The other part about this is management must reward those that find and address issues rather than punish them by having them fix their mistakes while working on the other stuff they should be doing. From the top down bringing issues to the table have to be viewed as a call for help not a reason to punish
I agree that it is not just in the car industry. You can add electronics and now eve n appliances to that list of produccts that are manufactured that way. At least sort of. You do have to be aware that there are different Asian countries and I don't think they all have that same level of quality engineering. Especially, when it comes to the component level. Some of my largest headaches have come from Asian component suppliers.
It is hard to beat the Japanese system methodology. This philosophy carries over to most items made in Japan not just cars. It allows for some additional tolerance with individual parts as long as the system works.
The assertion about designing for a three year product life is fairly accurate, at least it was for Chrysler while I was there. For starters, the top managers did seem to be accounting types, not engineers. But one indicator oof the problem was the reality that while the managers drove assigned cars so that, at least in theory, they could see any problems, all of those cars were inspected and serviced by mechanics EVERY DAY! The explanation that I got from our department manager was that nobody ever wanted thier part to be noticed as a problem by the upper management. I don't know what would have happened if there had been a problem noticed, but it would probably make somebodies career shorter or less rewarding. Now with that kind of culture and mindset, the policy makers never ever saw any reason to push for any changes.
I agree with you, JimT. It seems that American companies are too often at the mercy of stockholders, causing CEOs to get fired frequently and causing executives to seek short term profits over long-term goals.
Good points, Jeff. I think we're seeing that optimism now in the gasoline market. At-the-pump gas prices have gone up about 20 percent in the last coule months, while the cost of oil is only up about 6 or 7 percent. Right now a barrel of oil is only $103, while gas is pushing $4.00. Two or three months ago, gas was about $2.75 while oil was about $98.
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