U.S. Automakers Plan for Record Production in 2013

By Automotive, Manufacturing No Comments

Fueled by strong demand for cars and trucks, U.S. automakers are accelerating production and, in some cases, canceling the industry’s traditional summer factory shutdowns. According to LMC Automotive, all brands, except Volkswagen Group, are expected to increase manufacturing output, running production near 90% of capacity.Auto Production 2012-2013
LMC forecasts total production in 2013 of 16 million vehicles, the highest since 2002, when the industry produced 16.5 million units. If true, the automotive sector will be one of the brighter spots in the otherwise lackluster manufacturing landscape in 2013.
On the other hand, if demand does not meet expectations, automakers will end up, not for the first time, with excess inventory. Initially, the extra production would boost revenue, because automakers book revenue when they ship a vehicle to a dealer, but in the long run they will have to make room for 2014 cars, and will be forced to offer discounts and incentives to the get cars off the dealers’ lots. If you are in the market for a new car, end of 2013 model year may be a good time to find a good deal.

 

A Flying Car for the Masses

By Automotive, Aviation and Aerospace No Comments
Terrafuggia Transition

Terrafugia Transition (Photo: Terrafugia)

Last weekend I had the privilege of visiting the “flying car” company Terrafugia. The Terrafugia Transition is an S-LSA class aircraft with folding wings designed to fit within a standard household garage, allowing it to also operate as a street-legal road vehicle. When operated as a car, the engine power take-off drives the rear wheels through a belt driven CVT. While it’s not going to break any speed records, it will go up to 65 mph. As an airplane, the Transition uses a push propeller and can reach speed of 100 kts (115 mph). Power is provided by a 100 hp Rotax aviation engine that uses high octane unleaded gasoline available at your neighborhood gas station.

Granted, the annals of aviation tell stories of flying cars dating back to the early days of aviation, but thus far no design was able to achieve commercial viability. But Terrafugia’s charismatic CEO Carl Dietrich does not call the Transition a flying car; he prefers the much less romantic term “roadable aircraft.” And this seemingly cute semantics distinction could be the key to Terrafugia’s commercial success. Read More

On Design Reuse

By Automotive, Aviation and Aerospace, Design Reuse, PLM No Comments

For years I have been preaching for higher level of design reuse in the automotive industry — an industry that inexplicably insists that every bolt, bracket and belt has to be unique to each model. And from time to time, a part used in one model year does not fit other model years.pReusing parts is not only helping reduce manufacturing and dealer inventory, but can also accelerate product design, improve quality and reduce manufacturing cost.

The automotive industry is slowly coming to the realization that it needs to do a much better job in focusing on meaningful and differentiating innovation and reuse existing design whenever possible. Two OEMs that I often single out as leading the pack in designing multiple models based on a single platform that allows high level of reuse are Ford and Volkswagen. But recently I found out first hand that VW does not always follow what it preaches.

My brand new Passat had a minor pressure leak in the fuel system that was probably caused by a faulty fuel filler cap. The dealer’s service department had a Passat cap in inventory, but, as it turned out, Volkswagen engineeres decided to use different fuel caps in cars equipped with 2L engine and in models using larger engines; it did not fit my car with a 3.6L V6 engine.

I am really curious to understand why VW engineers were not able to use the same fuel filler cap on all 2012 Passats (actually, why not the same cap in all VW and Audi models?)

The solution was to commandeer a cap from one of the new cars in inventory.  The new cap seems to have solved the problem. Thanks for asking.

 

Is Dassault Systèmes’ Target Zero Defect a Realistic Goal?

By Design Reuse, PLM, Reliability, Warranty No Comments

Dassault Systèmes announced the launch of “Target Zero Defect,” an industry solution for the automotive industry the company argues will “enable zero defects across the entire product development process”, although it offers no details as of how this “industry solution” actually works.  While a noble ambition, it is an impractical goal.
It’s not that the auto industry is incapable of building much higher quality products. The problem stems from the fact that 70% or so of a car value is delivered by multitude of large and small suppliers, and the automotive supply chain is complex and fragmented. Couple these with the pressure to get new cars to market faster and at low cost, and you realize that “zero defects” is an unattainable goal. Read More