I definitely agree with that -- the design conservatism of Toyota (and for that matter, Honda too) -- and made a similar comment earlier in the thread. I also agree with Chuck about marketing mucking about too much in U.S. carmaking. Incremental improvements are the only way to both assess the effects of change incrementally improve reliability. Change all the subsystems at once and who knows what's going on. I also think that the U.S. car companies only started focusing on the build quality in their factories after Japanese and German automakers had come to the U.S. and set up factories which were more flexible, required fewer people, and built higher quality cars than they did or could.
I was thinking human safety as well while reading this. That weight savings goes towards fuel economy, yes, but in a crash there's conservation of momentum to consider as well. The weight savings means you're going to have more momentum transferred to this lighter car.
Smokey Yunik made a similar comment about reducing race car weight, a whole lot of years ago. " You don't take a hundred pounds out of a car in one place, you take an ounce out in sixteen hundred places."
Of course, one way to do that is to use the much stronger, much thinner steels. Unfortunately, when they finally do bend it is a much more destructive failure mode, and much less likely to be able to straighten. So there certainly is a tradeoff made there.
Ratsky: Excellent point about the conservatism of Toyota. That may also be the reason why Toyota thoroughly dominates Consumer Reports' reliability ratings year after year. Even after Toyota's supposed "unintended acceleration" problem a couple of years ago, Toyota's vehicles again came in with the highest marks on virtually all of their vehicles.
Re Japanese makers: all tend to be pretty conservaitive, but the most is Toyota. I was once told by a Toyota executive that they would not even consider adding any new technology until they were losing significant sales because they didn't have it! Nissan was a bit more adventurous, Honda much more so. Can't speak to the 2nd tier players (Mitsubishi, Suzuki, etc.), though.
Biggest difference: US manufacturers have been driven more by marketing, German more by engineering and function, Japanese by process (focus on quality).
One other point: largely because of their slow incremental approach to evolving thier products, the Japanese get away with 18-month design cycles, vs. 30-36 months for everyone else! Thus, when they DO decide to introduce something new, it appears quickly after the decision.
I enjoyed my 87 Cadillac deVille. It got gas mileage compareable to to the dodge stratus you mention and it wasn't that all heavy of a car. My 96 deville is rated, wikipedia, at 4,000 to 4,300 lbs and doesn't get a necessarily bad gas mileage. Some would probably say other wise, but I don't like little cars.
In the end the article says it's comparable in weight to most anything else on the market. So.. they didn't blindly reduce weight as they shouldn't if they don't want huge problems later on. But I am surprised Cadillac is even building a compact. Prior compacts like the Cimmaron did poorly. Why play that tune again? An aluminum hood? That's race car stuff from the 60's and you don't build mass produced bodies with aluminum. They dent too easy and too difficult to repair.
Design engineers need to prepare for a future in which their electronic products will use not just one or two, but possibly many user interfaces that involve touch, vision, gestures, and even eye movements.
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