Auto Development Notes
article was written partly to explain why a Magnum or 300 squad car was
not available until the 300C and Magnum had been produced for a while.
The 36 month figure [for designing a new car such as the LX] refers to a full platform, which means no engine development, no transmission development, no axle development, etc. - building a new basis for a family of vehicles. For example, Chrysler has 5 platform teams-I will use the old names so people are not confused:
1. Large Car platform
2. Small car platform
3. Minivan platform
4. Jeep/Truck platform
5. Viper amd Special Vehicle platform
Each one of the groups is chartered to develop a family of vehicles...i.e. Large Car Platform designes the LX, Small Car Platform develops the Stratus/Sebring, Jeep-Truck Engineering develops all Jeeps and trucks, Minivan develops the minivan and Pacifica, and finally, Viper/SVP develops the Viper, PVO cars, TE Electric minivans, and is involved with the factory racing to a small extent.
Additionally, you have the Engine development group, Transmission development group, Product Design Office (where all vehicles are styled), Financial, Legal, IT (Imformation Technology), Program Management, and finally Corporate Management. All of these ancillary groups perform a vital function directly related to the design process. IT for example, is charged with the development of the process cars are designed from the initial concept studies through the manufacturing plantoperation, service parts operations, etc.
The design process is such that a single vehicle design engineer may have 4 jobs he/she is working on at one time, such as current model revision of parts, new packaging for a new platform, supplier selection and verification, and finally, component testing. If everythnig goes according to the master product plan, there is just enough hours in the day to accomplish the work required, due to so many people being "removed" from the pool of talent. Let one thing go bad (a supplier that cannot perform as needed, an error in packaging a component, or whatever) and the whole process tumbles like the proverbial house of cards.
How well this group of inter-related processes performs is going to depend on the acceptance by the union, by the middle managers, and by the people on the "front lines". Plans are great-they are a valuable part of the process to keep everyone headed in the desired direction. Unfortunately, guiding an automotive company is sort of like trying to herd goats.....every once in a while you are going to get a horn in the butt.
Variants, on the other hand, are much harder to quantify, because the amount of rework varies from vehicle to vehicle. If, for example we take [one person's recent] comments about [how easy it would be to create a police car based on the Charger], assuming it is a four door sedan and not a wagon, and finally assuming the performance is avaialble in the basic vehicle....there are over 300 parts that must be changed in design, tooling designed to produce the new parts, assembly PDM sheets developed (the build process and how not to get a police front end on a wagon or 300C), training for the assembly workers, testing to the Michigan State Police standards for certification, EPA testing for emissions certification, NHTSA testing for safety testing, etc. This kind of process can only be accomplished after the basic platform is "frozen", which is not until some 25 weeks or so before volume production starts for the basic platform. Preliminary work can be done ahead of time, if you have the manpower (and Chrysler doesn't) available, with the understanding that the parts designed will change, sometimes radically, due to a test failure, for example.