Major GM restructuring underway


This German design philosophy made itself known with their tanks during WWII. The Tiger tank was one of the best, if not the best, tank in the war, WHEN it ran. It was very complex and prone to system failures.


@shadowfax Geez, methinks you might have started something now. I thought I fully understood what you said and have been mulling it over. From my German side, that’s maybe why I have so many shovels and tools. One for each specific purpose and I always have to do a Pert chart for any big project. My Scandinavian side though tends to make me improvise and use these things for purposes not intended to get the job done. Can be a little dangerous too. We must not take some of these broad statements so seriously though-causes high blood pressure. :grin:


Good point! The Russian tanks were crudely made by comparison but were simple and more reliable. The US Sherman tank was mass produced and stood up very well in rough use. Most wars are “rough use” applications.


I have in recent years watched and voiced my objections to the so called “progress” of solid state technology in life in general and automobiles in particular and my greatest objection is that in order to deliver as much “whiz-bang” for the buck to those who appreciate it everything is integrated and consolidated into “the system.” How much is the “entertainment center” on a soccer mom’s minivan? And if GPS fails is there any solution other than to replace the entire “system” with a factory replacement that must be programmed by the dealer to communicate with the vehicle?. And just think how convenient it is these days that outside rear view mirrors no longer require opening a window and readjusting it occasionally thanks to the electronically controlled models that can be programmed to adjust themselves to suit various drivers. But then if that “system” fails what does it cost to repair it? And will we see Western Auto rear view mirrors pop-riveted to the doors of 5 year old luxury cars soon??? Only if the power operated windows still operate I’m sure.

When a car won’t start and one of the top possibilities for the failure is the “entertainment center” I’ll make it a point to mentally cross that car off my list of attractive models that the IN crowd lusts for.


I read today that GM is now lobbying to keep the $7500 rebate for electrics going instead of having it lapse soon. Said they’ll be in trouble without it. Maybe she should have considered that before trying to turn GM into GE. It’d be nice to hear from someone on the inside about what is really going on there.


But that what I’m addressing. When you use the term failsafe- it is indicating a safety related issue. Terminology matters here- especially to engineering types :wink:

I have counterparts and dotted line reports all over the globe including two business units in Germany. I am fully aware of how they conduct business especially related to product design. We have many cooperative design efforts utilizing global engineering resources. So I do not need to spend time in German engineering school to know how they operate on a daily basis…

The brainstorming session you described takes place around the globe if you plan to market your products to most geographic areas including the US, EU and China. As I described, part of the compliance aspect to meet CE, UL, CSA, TUV, Korean and/or Chinese standards is to envision and plan for ways the product can be mis-used and put mitigations in place.


This argument can be used against almost any technological progress. It costs a lot more to replace a computer than it does to replace an abacus. It costs a lot more to fix a Honda than it does to fix a wooden horse carriage. It costs a lot more to repair a leaking air conditioner than it does to open a window.

Yeah, higher tech things cost more. They also make life better. You can open a window but if it’s 95 degrees out you’re still gonna sweat. You can drive a horse and carriage but if you need to get from LA to Las Vegas you’d better bring camping equipment and water, 'cause you’re gonna be wandering through the desert for 3 days.

And computers let you talk to people on Car Talk, which is somewhat difficult to do on an abacus. :wink:

Put another way specific to the systems you addressed, yes, the power mirrors are nice until they break. And after they break, they behave like the manual mirrors you miss. So, you can go 20 or so years with power mirrors and then when they finally break, you’re not obligated to replace them. Just adjust them manually. But you got to enjoy them for 20 years, whereas a car that comes with manual mirrors, you’re stuck with 'em.


About 1970 I worked with a man a few years older than me who had kept an old Dodge limping for years and when he accumulated a few hundred dollars he traded in his old car for a newer more luxurious Oldsmobile. After a few payments as the Mississippi summer got hotter his AC went out and after making the car payments he had no loose cash to spend on a repair and to add insult to injury the power windows went out. It was hilarious to see the car being driven in the afternoon sun with the driver’s door held open a few inches, then when stopped at an intersection the door would swing wide open and the driver jump out hoping a breeze would come along. That was some miserable luxury. A bicycle would have been better transportation for much of the year.


In every large corporation - Engineering is global. Even medium size companies - Engineering is global. I work for a small company and we have global engineering in parts of our company. There is no German way of engineering or Japanese way of engineering, or American way of engineering. The differences come from Management, and what they want engineers to do.

, Design this product to 5 years of service and a failure rate of 5/1,000,000.

. Design this product to have all these features and get it to production in 6 months.

Engineers will do the design based on the given requirements. Their approaches can/will be completely different.


Mike, while I agree with your assessment that there is no difference regionally on how to go about designing products (which I have also been arguing) those examples you cite have nothing to do with regulatory compliance requirements. Well, to be fair the first one has some relevance but not with regard to who gets to decide that aspect. If your product has to meet IEC standards, then it has to meet very specific conditions in order to be certified. IEC 60601-1 and 61010-1 are very specific for medical and industrial equipment. You should be somewhat familiar with IEC 60950-1 for Telecom equipment.

This typically comes from customers and their applications. We don’t lift a design finger until there is an agreed upon Product Requirements Specification (PRS). In it are all the particulars of how this product will be designed and tested and what certifications it must meet. Engineers or their management or company management for that matter don’t get to decide which aspects they will comply with or not. You either design to the standard and get certification or you don’t and fail the auditing of your product and/or processes (both design and production).

Safety compliance is especially demanding. This applies in a number of categories but for the sake of citing an example related to your first example- if you are designing industrial products that need to meet PL e “class 4” then the failure rate, MTBF or MTTF requirements are very specific. If you decide to exceed them, that’s acceptable although they are already quite rigorous. Management doesn’t have the leeway to decide otherwise and still meet the customer or industry standard application requirements. It works like that for everything from toys to cars…


The telecom equipment we design/build don’t really have safety requirements.

There are basically two (many subsets, but basically two) different reasons for requirements, and thus different approaches.

#1 - You have a specific customer with a very specific set of requirements that you’re trying to solve.

#2 - No customers yet, but there is a need for a product with the hope of getting customers.

There are others, but they seem to fit in one or even both of those categories.

Our company is almost exclusively #1. Customer contacts us with a specific problem to solve. Their requirements are very specific.

We have built products to generate a need. It’s risky. Most of the time we’re building a replacement for a specific product by one of our competitors.

In either case it’s Management that is deciding what type of criteria we need to meet.


Power windows/etc have had nearly 50 years to improve. They’re much more reliable now than they used to be. In fact, the only time I’ve had a window opening mechanism break on me was in my old '89 Caravan which had crank windows. Even my 26 year old MR2’s power windows have never died.

I used to agree with you back in the days when electronics were flaky, but if anything, today they’re more reliable than the mechanicals they replaced.


Maybe many current mechanical functions today are more prone to failure because they are not the near bullet proof systems of 40 years ago.Instead they are the new failure prone plastic chain and rollers used in electric windows with a motor winding up the chain. The electric motors on power windows have been prone to various failures from the beginning and today they compound the motor and switch failures with tinker toy mechanisms and then put a plastic handle on in place of the motor.making the mechanical mechanism a failure prone toy…


I don’t think 1970’s cars were quite as bulletproof as you’re making them out to be. Sure, the window crank might last the life of the car, but then when the life expectancy of the car is so short that odometers only go to 5 digits, that’s not too hard to do.

Put another way, I’d rather replace a window switch 25 years after I buy the car than replace the car 10 years after I buy it.


No doubt opinions vary @shadowfax. But Americans have let themselves become snowed into thinking the situation with cars and trucks and SUVs is inevitable rather than a marketing trend. There is a large market for S-10/Ranger size trucks and smaller sedans and station wagons but Detroit wants to maximize profits by convincing the public that they have mysteriously developed a line of behemoths that are more economical than the smaller trucks and SUVs and lobbying CAFE standards to give them cover for their lies.

Highly marketed styling trends cause rear visibility problems so a dime store rear view monitor is installed. That’s some great technology.


I somehow completely missed your reply until just now and didn’t want you to think I was ignoring you:

That’s true - the proper term is “fail operational,” but people generally aren’t familiar with that term. Kinda like my industry. Everyone talks about “filming” things. Nobody films anything anymore. They take video of it. My industry hasn’t used film in something like 20 years. But if I’m talking to a bunch of non-TV people, I’ll use “film” even though we do not use that term within the industry, because that’s the term people understand.

When the bluetooth module on a BMW X3 (and probably others, though who knows because they put different stuff in seemingly every model) crashes, it takes everything in the center console with it. That’s objectively stupid design. What causes the bluetooth module to fail is if you pair a phone that isn’t fully compatible with it. That’s also objectively stupid for a couple of reasons.

First, bluetooth is supposed to be backwards-compatible, which means a bluetooth 1 device should be able to talk to a bluetooth device that just debuted. It may not have all of the functionality, but the newer device is supposed to be able to scale itself back to talk to the older one.

And second, even if the bluetooth device isn’t compatible with the old technology and crashes when it tries to talk to it, it should not be integrated with the rest of the car such that other systems crash when it does.

In other words, you should be able to pair an older phone to an X3 without causing the cockpit to go dark. But you can’t, because BMW decided that following bluetooth compatibility standards wasn’t necessary, presumably assuming that no one who buys a $50,000+ car would ever have a phone more than 6 minutes old.

And to the second point, your entire house does not go dark just because a lightbulb goes out in the kitchen. Christmas lights have fail-redundancy built in for cripes sake! The engineers designing the “Ultimate Driving Machine™” can’t be bothered to make it as fail-operational as a $3 string of Christmas lights!

And as design stupidities like this aren’t unique to BMW, but show up in Audi, and VW, and even Porsche, it’s fair to conclude that German automotive engineering works differently than other cultures, and that has a real impact on the end-consumer.

And then when we do get a small truck, it’s stupid. This is the small truck we’re about to get from Hyundai:

So the bed’s about the size of my shoe, and that stylish raked rear-pillar design means that what little bed you have can’t be used efficiently. No one’s gonna want to tip mulch into that thing with a bobcat for fear of bashing the bodywork.

The passenger cabin is significantly longer than the useable bedspace. And then when it hits the market and few people buy it because it’s not useful, they’re gonna conclude “See? Americans don’t want small trucks!”


I’d rather replace my car every 3 years, so I don’t have out of warranty repairs or the increased costs of maintaining an aging vehicle.


Yeah, a lot of people think that way 'cause, honestly, they’re bad at math. :wink:

“I’ll spend $25,000 so I don’t have to spend $500.”


Actually, it’s not the math, I’m a CPA and certified financial planner, so I’m quite good at it. It’s about peace of mind. I’m quite willing to spend a few extra bucks to not have the anxiety of repairs.


Unless your buying complete dogs that need major repairs every other month then your are wasting your money. That is just poor money management.