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If the pins holding the pistons to the piston rods aren’t holding, that is problematic. I can see how it could happen though, the fancy automation process used to build cars these days is on the whole better for reliability, but it increases the odds of something an actual person would catch, not being caught. Toyota I think had a problem on some vehicles where the piston rings were installed ok, but the gaps would line up or were installed lining up and resulted in an unusual amount of engine oil use. Again something that a human operator might catch, but goes un-noticed in a fully automated process.

I can see how it could happen though, the fancy automation process used to build cars these days is on the whole better for reliability, but it increases the odds of something an actual person would catch, not being caught.

Actually…automated manufacturing can catch many many many more things then a human can catch. But it has to be setup and done right. When making parts it can detect things that the human eye can’t see. It can see differences that you and I think are perfectly fine. This may have been the result of some system not checking the control process…but that system was setup and controlled by a human.

Didn’t I hear a report that those automated self driving cars at Google get into a lot of minor traffic accidents that for a human driver would be very unlikely to happen? Automation is a good thing, but not a panacea.

Didn't I hear a report that those automated self driving cars at Google get into a lot of minor traffic accidents that for a human driver would be very unlikely to happen?

The technology is still evolving. The first 20 jet airplanes that were invented had MAJOR DESIGN flaws and never made it into production. Wait til the cars are in production…then we’ll see. They have years before they are ready.

Automation is a good thing, but not a panacea.

No one ever said it was.

I said this many years ago when people we lambasting the big three and holding the up and coming Asian makes as quality standards: just wait til they grow up and start making as many cars as the big three do. That’s when the warts start appearing. Lo and behold, they are now manufacturing similar volumes and what do we see? The same kind of issues cropping up. Anybody can make small volumes of anything and be nearly perfect. Then scale it up and it’s far more difficult to maintain that same level of perfection…welcome to the big leagues.

@mountainbike Agree that quality manufacturing does not happen by itself. In addition to robust design and careful assembly, the use of statistical quality control was necessary to get to that level. Edward Deming, a very unpopular US quality government guy during WW II, went to Japan after the war and taught them quality manufacturing.

Toyota was one of the first to implement it. The Japanese Camera Institute had to do it to get the government export permit. Prior to all this Japanese consumer goods were a bit of a joke. The new focus was Swiss and German quality but at an affordable price. I bought my first Japanese camera in 1958, and have not looked back since.

It was a very steep learning curve for Japanese industry and took till the mid 80s to catch up to US standards of quality.

No piece of equipment is perfect, however, and even the best manufacturers have glitches. I’ve bought 4 Japanese cars over the years and each one was better than its corresponding US vehicle. There is simply no comparison with a Nissan Sentra (only the third best Japanese compact) and a Dodge Neon.

When I worked for Outboard Marine years ago, we thought Johnson, Evinrude and our other products were the best and made fun of Yamaha, Honda, and other Japanese makes. What remains of Outboard marine is now owned by Bombardier Recreational Products, the Ski-Doo manufacturer.

IMHO one problem here in the U.S. is that our manufacturing industries are often run by the bean counters who only see the red ink and the black ink. The major concern is the quarterly reports for the stockholders. When Bunkie Knudsen and Ed Cole, automotive engineers were prominent people at GM in the 1950s, we got such things as the great Chevrolet small block engine. When Roger Smith became president of GM in the 1970s, we got the Chevrolet Vega that had the durability of a potato chip.

When Roger Smith became president of GM in the 1970s, we got the Chevrolet Vega that had the durability of a potato chip.

That’s an insult to potato chips.

Believe it or not I liked my Vega. If it was a reliable vehicle GM would still be the world leader. But alas it wasn’t. The Vega was stylish…easy to work on…good handling…and comfortable for a small car of that era.

Doc, there’s no question of the power of SPC, but there are also many other technologies (my favorite being DFM) that are every bit as powerful, and were taught to us by the Japanese.

Re: the Vega, I too liked my Vega. If the quality had been there, I’d probably have become a GM guy. But, alas, it was not. And when I traded it in for a Toyota Corolla in '76 I discovered what quality really is. That car stayed tight and ran flawlessly for the six years I owned it. I never had to keep going back for recalls and warranty work, the way I did with the Vega. I never had to bring the Corolla back for a recall or warranty work at all. And it too was fun to drive. I only traded it six years later because of “growing family syndrome”.

I have to respectfully disagree with TT. The bottom line is that Honda and Toyota were making reliable cars at affordable prices, and GM was making junk. Size is not an enemy of quality. Bad management is. Size provides greater resources to build better, but it’ll only do so if management wants to do so.

For the record, I tried a GM product again (Saturn) in '95, when Toyota and Honda were both producing in huge volumes, and the quality of the Saturn was not up to the standards I’d grown used to from Toyota and Honda. GM was still not making cars comparable in quality to the Japanese. I won’t get burned a third time.

Damned shame, too, because in the '50s and '60s GM built some of the best cars in the world.

Google provides monthly reports, including any accidents that took place that month. They have been involved in 17 small accidents since the program started. Read about it here:

http://www.google.com/selfdrivingcar/reports/

Almost all were due to the other car hitting them. In 6 years and 2 million miles, that is pretty good.

Volume increase always precedes resource increases. When the volumes increase faster than they can hire and adequately train more people, then problems start appearing. Not one company hires people in advance of orders and they are all driven by revenue expansion. They will take orders whether they can comfortably fit them into their existing capacity or not. Call it a management issue but any successful company suffers this fate at some point. Once they hit the hockey stick in growth, the quality warts start showing up. They simply cannot keep up. Until demand slows due to poor quality…

I was under the impression that piston ring gaps rotated in general use. I recall and A+P (airplane mechanic) tell me that, if and otherwise good-running engine showed bad compression #s on one cylinder, you ought to fly it a little more and retset, because you may just have had the bum luck of the choosing that moment to align.


Do not know if that’s an OWT or only applicable to aviation, though…

Oh, they can rotate all right. I haven’t watched them do it but I have built motors and paid particular attention to clocking the ring gaps. Torn them down shortly thereafter and found the gaps all over the place…another good reason for gapless rings :wink:

During the period that GM was having so many problems and going bankrupt, Ford stayed solvent and Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, and even Kia were all growing… and their quality kept improving. And they achieved much of their expansion using U.S. labor.

Balancing resources with demand is always a challenge. Done properly, it does not have to cause a drop in quality. Quality can even improve while volume increases. Toyota, Hyundai, Honda, and Kia have all demonstrated this. If the focus is on simply the volume, than quality will usually suffer. That puts the problem squarely where it belongs, on the shoulders of management.

Good companies do not commit to more than they can produce, and many good companies staff up and even build new facilities in anticipation of growth. And no, not all companies suffer demand-driven quality drops (“this fate”). I ran manufacturing companies for two decades. The scenario you describe does happen, but not in well run companies.

GM suffered badly for its bad management. GM would link their production volumes to the maximum efficiency numbers for each manufacturing facility. As long as sales were high, they were okay. They sold excess inventory with rebates. When sales dropped, they kept demanding maximum efficiency from their facilities, and kept making cars in excess of demand. Parking lots filled with unsold inventory. They did not adjust their production volumes to demand and adjust efficiency expectations or capacities to the sagging market. As a consequence, they overproduced by a longshot. They then could not recoup the huge sums of money they’d spent producing all those unsalable cars.

Drops in quality are not driven by growth. And drops in quality are not common to all companies who experience growth. Countless companies, including car companies, maintain high quality while growing… some while growing considerably. As a matter of fact, many car companies have increased quality dramatically while growing dramatically.