While quality isn’t necessarily lacking because most modern cars are built by precision robots and quality control (QC) is advancing, two things mean the results will never be perfect; human nature and cost.
But it is now better recognized that the “quality” of a finished product consists of many variable elements, such as the raw materials used, their transformation into transformed materials, the engineering and machining of these into components, the design of how these components work (individually and collectively), the degree of “refinements” to the overall design, and how the whole is assembled, checked and adjusted…and so on. To this must always be added the human issues of emotion, skill and diligence, and the strategies of management, supervision, production flow planning and, again, cost.
Typically, “Quality Check” meant a quick final check when an item left the production line. From there the cars either went to the finished vehicle pool or were diverted to a “grinding” channel. A few samples from each mass production batch have been checked and tested more thoroughly.
What intrigued the Japanese, as they planned to conquer the export world, was how many items, even of the highest quality (from ballpoint pens to radios to cars) of the most prestigious Western brands, still had many warranty requests from consumers. . It wasn’t just curiosity. Warranty claims are a disastrous inefficiency. The product has been shipped from the factory to a wholesaler, distributed halfway around the world to a retailer, sold to a customer who is now disappointed and angry, and has to go up the same distribution chain for the manufacturer to fix or replace. The cost in money is not low. The cost of reputation in the market can be enormous.
Prevention is better than cure
The Japanese question was, if you can make a perfect product, why isn’t everything exactly the same on the same production line? Why do some, if any, go wrong? What variations were there between items that worked flawlessly almost “forever” and those that failed during a warranty period? And, more importantly, why were there variations?
To answer this question, they moved their QC from the end of final production to the beginning of the beginning and all the way through. Simply put, they set the benchmark accuracy of absolutely everything, and wherever there was variation from that, they chased the Why? Why? Why? So that it doesn’t happen again. From iron ore mining and steel processing to the makers of the machines that pressed body panels and turned or forged engine parts, the height of the stools workers sat on, the temperature of their assembly halls, the frequency with which they put on clean gloves.
They researched everything, exhaustively, to identify the variations. And they believed and acted on the results, obscure as they seemed. This exercise was expensive, but it was not a cost. It was an investment that ultimately saved money, lowered prices, and boosted market confidence globally.
The calculation of quality chains
If every element and every process is 90% correct, you are not getting a finished product that is 90% correct. If there are two processes, the result is only 81%. If there are three, you end up with 73%. If there are 10 processes at 90%, the final product will be less than 35% quality. Waste.
It’s the same commitment and confidence in blue sky research, without any presumptions or preconceived notions, that has made Japanese manufacturers the pioneers of things like fitting a car stereo as standard instead of an optional extra, even in urban runabouts.
Prior to the QC change, Japanese cars (and their other products) had a reputation for being cheap garbage (rather than we now see almost everything made in China). Today, Japanese products are famous for their reliability and reliability. They did not claim this quality but simply let market experience prove it. And their government has legislation that requires it. Chinese manufacturers operate under somewhat different instructions, so far.
Look, in particular, at what they’re doing with super-cheap micro cars, having learned some important lessons with their pioneering first foray into this new segment.
They say there are two things you should never watch: sausages and politics. Both contain ingredients you don’t know, or prefer not to know.
In some ways you might want to add cars. At the grind channel at American Motors’ Toledo, USA plant, two things were unforgettable. The first was the station deciding whether each vehicle could go to the finished vehicle fleet or be diverted to be rectified. The exact measure that decided this was: “Only defects that a customer will definitely detect and are unlikely to be tolerable.” The reasoning: “No vehicle is perfect. Customers will expect minor deviations or start-up issues, and might have them looked at during their first service. But if there is anything unacceptable, they will not only bring it back for warranty repair, but they will also list everything else that is even slightly wrong. And possibly change brands. It is therefore only the unacceptable defects that we seek out and divert to be corrected.
These were mostly paint flaws (on the most visible A1 surfaces only) or unsuitable panels (mainly bonnet lids and doors, corrected by beefy guys wielding two-by-two fabric-wrapped planks as levers.
The epitome of quality in the automotive industry has long been and remains Rolls Royce. First, they are not mass produced. They are handcrafted and in most cases individually tailored to specific buyers.
Second, they set out to make the “perfect” car and do whatever it takes to make it happen. Only then do they calculate what it will cost to do so and set the market price needed to achieve that standard.
Mass production works the other way around. Designers are assigned an end price target for the market segment and try to build the best car possible within that budget. For the overwhelming majority of motorists, quality is nice but price is crucial. For elite buyers, quality is essential and price is irrelevant.