Less Parts, More Problems?

Before the popularization of interchangeable parts, automotive manufacturing involved more skill and [less!] precision. Standardizing screws and parts allowed unskilled workers to produce large numbers of cars quickly, and repair them easily. This made manufacturing more efficient, and thus, more profitable. However, with millions of parts coming in for production in several different models, the margin for error decreases.

Automotive News

In the current age of electronic engineering, a car with no errors is the standard in automotive manufacturing. Ford lost $467 million due to warranty payments in the first quarter, including a $295 million charge for two recalls involving engines that could catch fire and door latches. These issues occurred in multiple models, compounding the problems because consumers see this as more than a parts issue. This hurts Ford’s reputation as a reliable car manufacturer.

Ford’s CEO, Mark Fields, highlights the fact that the same parts go into multiple models, but he spins this into a positive feature showing the company’s innovation. “We were a little bit ahead of the industry in reducing our platforms and getting commonality of parts,” he said. “When we do have a recall, it tends to hit a bigger population. Whenever we see something, we’re going to act very proactively for the customer. That’s exactly what we’ll continue to do” (Automotive News).

Source: Ford profits fall on recall charges

3 comments to Less Parts, More Problems?

  • This is a good presentation of the OEM side of things.

    What happens when it’s the supplier that messes up? Here I am thinking of Takata and their airbags. How big a problem does that become, relative to Ford’s warranty issues? How big a problem was that 20 years ago, before the engineering details in Europe and North America were coordinated, that is, before the rise of truly global cars?

  • greenj18

    In our modern times I often feel overwhelmed with the number of recalls and defects that are constantly announced on the news. With the ability to blast any defects or issues found on a vehicle manufacturers on our modern times seem to be walking a thin line where if they don’t have a flawless product the fallback could be extremely costly.

    • One aspect of recalls that are not captured by headlines is that many are for a handful of vehicles, sometimes 100-200 of which, once checked, most are OK and don’t actually need repairs. Some are quick enough that many of the relevant vehicles are still on dealer lots. The 2D bar coding that many parts have lets potential defects be narrowed down if the flawed vehicles all come from the same few days of production.

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