Customer Quality Engineer
The powertrain article in the March issue (see WAW — Mar. '05, p. 11) reports Saab will build GM's new turbocharged V-6. I was interested to read that the engine will have 32 valves. Could you tell us if the engine will have 5.333 valves per cylinder, or if two cylinders have six valves each?
Doh! We like to be the first to report on new valvetrain strategies, but unfortunately, this is not an example of one of them. It was a typo that about six editors overlooked. The new V-6 has 24 valves.
Who Needs Parts Anyway?
John McElroy's proposal for a low-cost redesign involving the modification of a previous model's tooling wouldn't work — there would be no way to manufacture service parts for the previous model anymore (see WAW — Mar. '05, p. 23). I've worked on the service-parts side of the OE business for 21 years and have noted that service is always an afterthought, at best.
However, during my years as a release engineer on a platform team, I too failed to consider service requirements due to the shifting priorities dictated by the development process. While under pressure to cut costs and satisfy customers, workers on both the technical and commercial side of our business are being driven to neglect service parts even further.
We must remember serviceability and the cost/quality of parts directly impacts corporate warranty costs and customer insurance rates. Unless vehicles are immune to failures, abuse and collisions, there is no way to avoid a high level of service-parts support. So, while John's new company would save big on development costs, it would suffer immeasurably in customer satisfaction and retention. Additionally, trying to make an “all-time buy” of parts before tooling changeovers never has proven effective. As the saying goes, “you can pay me now or pay me much more later.”
Quality & Product Engineering
John McElroy responds:
I believe re-freshening product lines very quickly and cheaply trumps worrying about service parts. Outsource that to the amazingly agile aftermarket companies that consistently produce replacement parts cheaper than you do. Go for the throat, change the rules! Bring back the annual styling change!
In response to Mr. GM employee's “Rotary A Best Engine?” letter (see WAW — Mar. '05, p. 7), I am shocked you've had to do some engine work on your 13-year-old third-generationRX-7, but I'm pleased that you will fix it instead of trading it in for a Camaro. I understand your attachment; the rotary engine is unique, powerful and functional.
Yes, rotary engines use crankcase oil to lubricate their internal engine seals, but you called the RX-8's Renesis engine “a 2-cycle weed eater.” This would be true if your weed eater is a 4-cycle LEV (low-emission vehicle) that doesn't use premix fuel, has a built in low-oil level indicator, produces 238 hp, has a 6-speed manual transmission and goes 0-60 in 5.9 seconds, all while accommodating four adults.
Maybe “pavement eater” is more apt. Despite our differences in opinion, I also buy and drive Mazdas, and they'll have to pry my rotary-powered car's steering wheel from my cold dead hands.
The Fun's Just Starting
Drew Winter's commentary, “Choppers not Walkers,” was excellent (see WAW — Feb. '05, p.7). I turned 54 this year, and I'm just as interested in fun and excitement as ever. Just because we're getting older, doesn't mean we are ready to lie down. When I'm not zipping around in my little sports car, I still tool around my property on my off-road go-cart or Japanese dirt bike. Someone said, “We don't stop playing because we grow old. Rather, we grow old because we stop playing.” I know I'll still be playing into my 60s and 70s, even if I have to soup-up my electric wheel chair for excitement.
Lead Project Management Analyst
Call For Change
It seems government intervention as related to the rising health-care costs and pension liabilities of auto makers and suppliers is a double-edged sword, for the employee anyway. It isn't whether I agree or disagree, but the keying on the “perception” that you assume others have of the U.S.-based auto and parts manufacturers, both in product quality, styling, and now views on what are acceptable management tools (Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection).
I think all of us, in the Detroit area for sure, have benefited financially and philanthropically from U.S.-based auto and parts manufacturers beyond compare. It is time for us to work together to get the most for all of us — health-care assistance and pension protection from anywhere we can get it, including the government. We need to stop the alarmist negativity in the media and work together to force the changes that need to occur to get us back to a winning attitude as we work to maintain our financial security. Say, do you have change for a paradigm?
Douglas K. Neeley, Ph.D.
West Bloomfield, MI
Maxx at Minimum Output
The caption under the photo of a Chevrolet Malibu Maxx in the hatchback story (see WAW — Feb. '05 p. 32-33) reads: “Chevy Malibu Maxx sales are exceeding forecasts.” I work for a Tier 2 supplier that manufactures the second-row seat frames for the Malibu Maxx. Our facility was tooled up to produce 150,000 units in the first year, but our production never came close to that level.
Furthermore, we have received confirmation from our customer that volumes now will be 30,000 units per year or less for the remainder of the vehicle's life. The article states “a hatchback variant from an existing platform can sell successfully in annual volumes below 30,000 units.” This shouldn't be used as a blanket statement for all models. I believe GM hoped for strong sales of the Maxx, and that's why we are tooled for so much production.
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