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Different quality cars for different markets from same manufacturer

Different quality cars for different markets from same manufacturer

(OP)
We had a discussion on another forum concerning vehicle quality for different markets. So, the general idea is: say BMW or another manufacturer basically has two classes of quality, higher and lower of course. So the higher quality vehicles are sold in developed countries (i.e. Germany, Switzerland, UK, USA, etc.), and the lower class goes to Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa and so on. Say they make the VW Golf in Belgium and Hungary (just a hypothesis) and the cars from Hungary are made for the second class markets in second class quality, the ones in Belgium are making cars for the higher quality markets. The car prices are roughly speaking the same, let's say. It was even mentioned that the manufacturers even have first and second class cars from the same factory and assembly line and for the same model of course. Just to make it clear, by quality I mean lower quality interior plastics, lower quality leather, lower quality fabric for the interior...it was mentioned that say lower quality starter motors which were known to have some issues (not durable enough, not issues like setting the car on fire) and subsequently stopped being put on the higher quality cars are deliberately put on new cars for the second class market (let's say they are "good enough")...those starters would have higher possibility of breaking down, but they would still be good enough not to make too many fixes under warranty and thus additional expenses to the factory. And by this I don't mean that cars for different climates or different road roughness have more powerful ACs or different shocks (say different AC or radiator for Emirati vs Swedish markets). The story was even more fueled when a member who has a 320d E90 LCI had a few defect which were or are going to be covered by warranty, and one of the issues is going to include an engine removal, the mileage is around 10ish thousand km. So, what's your opinion?

RE: Different quality cars for different markets from same manufacturer

There is some truth to it, but 'quality' is a loaded word to use.

E.g., my friend from Wisconsin, whose family made wire harnesses for GM for years, says that the connector shells for, say, a GMC Suburban are slightly different from and slightly more expensive than the corresponding connector shells for a Chevrolet Suburban, which is nominally the same vehicle, made on the same production line.

E.g., Henry Ford is rumored to have said that the Mercury was the car he would have built as a Ford, absent competitive price pressure.

E.g., my Mercury Mountaineer doesn't squeak and rattle on rough roads as much as my similar Ford Explorers did. Just one tiny example of a difference I found: The 'staple' part of the Mercury's door locks is coated with some kind of tough, shiny elastomer, so the 'claw' part can still move relative to the staple, but it can't make a 'click' noise while doing so. The Ford's staples were just plated to resist corrosion.

Many vehicles are produced at 'high' and 'low' trim levels even for the same market, and some vehicles are produced in very similar form on different lines in different parts of the globe, but modern manufacturing is perfectly capable of making every one unique, and easily capable of making 'the same' vehicle different in thousands of large and small ways, adapted for whatever market in which they are to be sold.




Mike Halloran
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA

RE: Different quality cars for different markets from same manufacturer

Not sure this is exactly what you are asking but VW group for example produce the Skoda Octavia, Seat Leon, VW Golf and Audi A3 that share many parts but have different price points in the market. Perhaps surprisingly in reliability surveys in both the UK and German the Skoda came out well above the more expensive brands.

Cars are certainly produced differently for different markets, most noticeably here in the UK is the location of the steering wheel but other factors also apply to comply with local laws on things like CO2 emissions, day time running lights etc.

I have also heard but cannot confirm that some plants around the world have a far superior paint finish to other plants that produce “identical” cars.

RE: Different quality cars for different markets from same manufacturer

I don't think that a manufacturer will risk using inferior parts as the way to make a cheaper part. This runs the risk of getting the poorer parts mixed in with the better car and causing all sorts of problems, not to mention just the sheer possibility of have inferior parts that turn out to be completely bad.

A more likely approach is the same way that clothing manufacturers will make a lower cost knockoff of their own high-end product, by using single-stitching, instead of double.

TTFN
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RE: Different quality cars for different markets from same manufacturer

The original poster is cross shopping this question across several forums, not just eng-tips.

It doesn't make much sense. Yes, different models have different content. Different models go to different markets. If the exact same model goes to two different markets then it is the exact same model.

Cheers

Greg Locock


New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm?

RE: Different quality cars for different markets from same manufacturer

(OP)
Yep, I posted this question on two other forums which I deemed are capable of answering this topic in a reasonable manner, that's why I posted it here too, because I see there are knowledgeable people on the board. I hope that's not a problem.

RE: Different quality cars for different markets from same manufacturer

dragvorl, as the comments here suggest, there are different meanings that can be attached to "quality". Historically, American manufacturers tended to use the same parts across the board except for special requirements, like a feature available only on certain models, and except for different levels of trim such as leather vs vinyl, and when a special application called for a higher quality or heavier duty part, like Titanium parts in certain engines. The public's perceptions have been different, expecting that a higher end line, like Cadillac would have higher quality parts than say Chevrolet. So, many years ago there was an uproar and even lawsuits when Chevy engines started showing up in Cadillacs.

Parts uniformity made a lot of sense when GM could order millions of a particular part and use it across all lines. I think there is more likelihood that parts quality could differ across a manufacturer's lines today due to the much greater efficiency in customizing parts for particular models and the much better ability to design to a particular life/duty expectancy. And there is no question that certain models in GM's and Toyota's lineups garner and REQUIRE higher ratings in the standard quality indexes indicating superior parts and/or assembly. Nevertheless, notice that Toyota's uncontrolled acceleration problems spanned Toyota and Lexus, leading to replacement of certain modules common to both lines.

RE: Different quality cars for different markets from same manufacturer

(OP)
Thanks for all the answers. I'm going to try to be more specific. If a car is sold in two different markets (for example Germany and Bulgaria), and presumably the cars don't have to be built different due to road quality, weather conditions, safety, etc. The car, for example, is a same specification, 1.6tdi Golf Mk6, same equipment for both markets. Now, they can put i.e. an alternator or ac compressor which barely passed QC, or they can put one which easily passed QC, and they know the lower quality compressor will run ok, but for sure not as good as the higher quality one, but will still meet expectations. Now the question is, if they can go away with it, do they intentionally put lower quality parts on identical spec cars in one market, and sell it for the same price as in another market, maybe with a higher profit margin? Assembly location can be same or different. I hope I explained it well.

RE: Different quality cars for different markets from same manufacturer

dragvorl, what you are talking about is "cherry picking" and that is often done in many fields of manufacturing. It is especially done when a manufacturer is allowed to send a picked unit for evaluation by reviewers. Is it done wholesale for the same identical product in different markets? I bet it is, but a manufacturer could catch hell politically and legally and be class-action sued if exposed.

RE: Different quality cars for different markets from same manufacturer

I think you are trying to find malice where none exists, or is intended.

In most instances, 'passes QC' is a binary function; the part meets the spec, or it doesn't. Almost no one has time to investigate further, so the margin of passing is not usually known.

Now, I said 'Almost..', because in the continuous effort to reduce weight and cost, engineers might investigate further. They might even find an opportunity to reduce weight or cost. In fact, they are forced to seek such opportunities by Supply Chain Managers, even if none exist.

This is where things get dicey. What usually happens is that plastic is subbed for metal, or cross sections are reduced, until the part just barely gets beyond the warranty period. ... in a lab ... in a controlled environment. When you shave it too close, the Real World's professional gorillas will find a way to mis-use the product so that it fails inside the warranty period, or fails in a way that's bad enough to get some press coverage.

There's no math model for professional gorillas, and sometimes we guess wrong about what damage they can do.

Nobody sets out to make a bad part.

Mike Halloran
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA

RE: Different quality cars for different markets from same manufacturer

For the longest time, foreign cars made in American factories would have a lower reliability than those of the original factories, so there's something to be said about workforce quality impact on product quality.

TTFN
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RE: Different quality cars for different markets from same manufacturer

IRstuff, do you have a reference for your statement about workforce quality? I have not followed this issue, but I remember years ago VW, Honda, Kawasaki and Sony claiming they got German and Japanese quality from their American factories. Those claims put the onus on management for quality and not the workforce. But, that was years ago. I'd like to see a more recent assessment of this issue.

RE: Different quality cars for different markets from same manufacturer

TPS attempts to ensure that the quality from satellite plants approaches or exceeds that of the Japanese factories, eventually. From memory NUMMI ended up as a reasonable high quality plant. I know of two instances where CKD plants produced HIGHER quality vehicles than the parent plants.

Basically, as someone else said, the OP is attempting to generate a conspiracy out of a faulty observation. We don't have time to go around qualifying parts for production that are nearly as good as the others, and as I said, once we did, if they met spec, they'd go in across the board.

Incidentally, you couldn't stream production of an alternator into two bins for durability, that would need durability testing on each alternator. Dream on.



Cheers

Greg Locock


New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm?

RE: Different quality cars for different markets from same manufacturer

Further to Gregs comment, that process would create a cost increase to downgrade some cars. Not at all likely.

The only case I ever saw approaching that was with high level vs low level options for the same market. One specific case was where a manually adjustable exterior was fitted to only the lowest model. It turned out an electric mirror cost less when installed than the manual, but for marketing reasons it was decided you needed to pay more for the perceived advantage. This was not a QC issue, but an equipment level/model issue.

Certainly the same model from different plants creates different quality and sometimes increases in some parts but decreases in others, like paint finish vs fit from maybe a more modern plant but less caring labour or whatever.

I remember many years ago the VW Beetle. From some plants you got a dipped baked enamel finish and from others you got a spray painted Duco room temperature dried finish.

Regards
Pat
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RE: Different quality cars for different markets from same manufacturer

Or for another example, the blanking plate for the space where the electronic clock would have gone in a high series Austin Metro, which rumour had it cost more than the clock. But the customer would pay 30 quid to have the clock fitted as an option, so the company made more money even though they were charging less for the more expensive part.

Anyway, basically in a modern car plant you'd have to have different model numbers if you wanted to make sure different parts were fitted, and so by definition it isn't 'the same' car.






Cheers

Greg Locock


New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm?

RE: Different quality cars for different markets from same manufacturer

Greg, there are numerous examples across industry of the disabling of features to create market tiers where ostensibly the upper tier had "added" features while in truth all tiers had all the features, but the lower tiers had those features disabled or removed. Even in cases of integrated circuits where there are distinct bins into which pieces that perform at different levels are sorted, if demand for lower tier parts exceeds supplies, higher performing parts might be sold as low performers.
These marketing tricks are intended to maximize the exploitation of the market.

RE: Different quality cars for different markets from same manufacturer

No, they're intended to maximize yield. A 120-ns DRAM cannot be used for a 60-ns DRAM application, but there are applications where a 120-ns DRAM can still be sold.

However, this is not an intentional design of a "poor" part. It's simply a fallout of production statistics and yield. It's no different that what used to be MIL-STD-883 parts. They were no different in design, and no different in processing. The only difference was the level of documentation and the amount of inspection.

From a purely economics perspective, selling systems using inferior parts is almost always a losing proposition, since inferior quality means more rejects, more failures, more returns, etc. That all costs money and will most likely gobble up any possible profit there might have been.

TTFN
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies

RE: Different quality cars for different markets from same manufacturer

IRstuff, the disabling or removing of features is not a strategy to increase yield. It is done solely to exploit the market. The best examples are with consumer microprocessors. Pricing and binning are matched to calculated marketability and do not match a normal yield distribution. The expedient of merely labeling a part as a lower performing piece fell victim to overclocking and relabeling. The manufacturers now include circuitry that can be burned in to deliberately cripple the performance of the piece by limiting the clock, disabling a cache, etc so as to keep it in a lower tier application.
The removal of a feature from a car manufactured with that feature is similar in that an extra step at extra expense is performed (option delete is sometimes performed at the dealership) in order to fit the car into a lower tier. Again the strategy is to maximize the exploitation of the market.

RE: Different quality cars for different markets from same manufacturer

I was referring to the cherrypicking.

I had already mentioned customization in the context of producing different models with different features for electronics, so that Best Buy doesn't sell the same identical product as Costco.

TTFN
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RE: Different quality cars for different markets from same manufacturer

IRstuff, I see what you mean.

RE: Different quality cars for different markets from same manufacturer

The only example I'm familiar with involves sorting stock from 'dead on spec' to those parts that are marginally within spec and then using the marginal parts in applications where the end user isn't likely to care about performance/durability. Even at that, the parts sorted needed to be of significant value to justify the exercise.

RE: Different quality cars for different markets from same manufacturer

Quote:

producing different models with different features for electronics, so that Best Buy doesn't sell the same identical product as Costco.

Actually I think it's producing different model numbers for different outlets even though the product is exactly the same so that Best Buy and Costco don't ever need to worry about actually honoring their "price match guarantee".

RE: Different quality cars for different markets from same manufacturer

Don't the car nerds call this "blue printing"?

- Steve

RE: Different quality cars for different markets from same manufacturer

"Actually I think it's producing different model numbers for different outlets"

I think there's always some physical or functional difference. Otherwise, someone who has the money and time to burn could do a side-by-side to debunk the notion that the different model numbers correspond to the identical hardware.

TTFN
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RE: Different quality cars for different markets from same manufacturer

The idea of sorting parts by how far out of spec they are is a losing proposition these days for ordinary parts. I believe Deming's recommendations include not producing parts with defects or marginal specs in the first place. In fact, if you only produce high quality parts you don't need to inspect and sort them. Saves a ton of money.
If your production is unreliable, inspection can catch unacceptable parts, but errors in the inspection process will waste some good parts and allow some percentage of terrible parts to get through (your inspection process is likely to be of the same quality as you production line). It is not efficient and it's harmful to the makers reputation.

In 1980 an illustration of quality manufacturing was presented in a TV report. Datsuns (Nissan) were being unloaded at Long Beach CA. The cars were driven off the ship and parked in a big lot. They had been loaded by crane, so this was the very first time they had been started ever. If one did not start it was sent back to Japan. The thing was that only about one in 5,000 cars wouldn't start or had a significant defect.
In contrast, the practice at GM was to, before installing in a car, run every single engine on natural gas to inspect for defects. 1 out of 3 required some adjustment.
It did not pay Nissan to inspect because they were not in the business of manufacturing defects. But, GM was.

RE: Different quality cars for different markets from same manufacturer

It depends on what the binning process is. For Deming's era, sorting tended to be semi-manual, and the costs could have be prohibitive. However, with automated testing, the binning process for certain types of testing is completely transparent. To wit, computer memories must run at a certain speed, otherwise, you'll either slow down the computer, or corrupt the data. However, as part of final test, each memory chip is tested for speed, and an automated binner sends the part to its correct bin for marking and packing.

"It did not pay Nissan to inspect because they were not in the business of manufacturing defects. But, GM was."

I think you've provided your own reference. GM's approach was to allow its components to consume the entire tolerance band, since they were more interested in quantity, rather than quality. This meant that parts would have varying degrees of compatibility, with some engines tight, and others loose.

Nissan's, and other Japanese companies of that era, approach was to try and hit the desired value as close as possible. Essentially, each engine was nearly identical to its brethren. This allowed them to further tighten tolerances to the point where engines could essentially run their optimum for longevity.

But, they used similar machines, the same physics of materials. The only difference was the overall corporate culture, i.e., the workforces had different goals and objectives.

TTFN
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RE: Different quality cars for different markets from same manufacturer

IRstuff, good comments. I did qualify what I said by saying "ordinary parts". I recognize that some parts, like computer chips, require a complicated, extensive multistage production process that can result in small variabilities in specs that produce critical variability in performance. Binning is required. It is the nature of the technology.
However, windshield wiper motors are not like that, nor are piston pins, etc. In fact, whole mechanical drivetrains can confidently be produced without sufficient variability to effect performance in the field,... if the production line is high quality.

RE: Different quality cars for different markets from same manufacturer

I have been in vehicle assembly plants on every continent, for almost every manufacturer and the simple fact is that there is one corporate standard part number for a given part and it is supplied the same globally. The way that the both the OEM and the supplier get the price down to the minimum is to make the part standard so the volume is maximized. There is not a single supplier I have been involved with in 30 years in the automotive supply industry that has any type of "binning" inspection system. The parts either pass or the the lot is rejected. With SPC and CPK charting; mechanical parts only use a small portion of the allowed tolerance in most cases anyway. The margins involved in automotive are so slim that no supplier could take the time to sort out the "lower standard" parts; plus, how would the contract work for that? You would get paid a lower amount to sort out parts (added labor) that are in spec, but towards the lower end?? No manufacturer is going to sign up for that one.

The scenario that that the OP is posting about just doesn't exist. There are different models in different markets at different price points, but not what he has proposed.

RE: Different quality cars for different markets from same manufacturer

I can think of only one specific example of "defunctioning" electronic parts. Canon makes a large range of digital cameras. The high end cameras have the same processor as the lower end cameras, but some of the functions and features are not accessible on the lower end cameras (the physical buttons and/or menu screens for those features don't exist for the lower end versions). Users have since hacked the camera's code, and you can download and install software that restores all of the features that your camera model is physically capable of... for instance shutter speeds to 1/20000 second are possible with most (if not all) Canon digital cameras as it's just a digital timing function (how long to integrate the CMOS sensor readings) - but you can't manually set the shutter speed on most of their cheaper cameras without hacking the code.

RE: Different quality cars for different markets from same manufacturer

(OP)
Good post screwman.thumbsup2

RE: Different quality cars for different markets from same manufacturer

btrueblood, what Canon does is common for those kinds of products. They usually don't actually add functionality to high-end microcircuits, they disable functionality from low-end parts. For goods like cameras, the microcircuits could be the same, but functionality is not provided from lack of a control setting or a button, etc. A mere software limitation is a poor barrier to hackers as you explained.
I think screwman1's post describes very well the situation with mechanical parts.

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