The Problem With Ford: The Suits
This email was sent to us by a Ford employee, who wishes to remain anonymous: "Ford is a great place to work because of the people and resources. You won't find a more technically competent, innovative, and well-equipped organization. Unfortunately, the public won't see the majority of our work because of the poor management and product planning we're all so accustomed to. I know from my former job at a supplier that GM and Chrysler are no different: limitless engineering capability held back by cost-cutting and incompetent management. I think Detroit's best bet is a mutiny of the engineers and designers. We'd storm the Glass House (RenCen, CTC), tie-up the suits, and start doing what we do best: cranking out awesome cars that the public wants." [TTAC is happy to provide space for any official Ford rep rebuttal.]
Blaming only the suits and calling the engineers to rescue will not solve the problem. Just look what Engineers do to a car: see where BMW and Mercedes went with their 7 series and S-Class some time ago. Engineers were left to invent and implement anything nice they could think of. Windows automatically closing when you enter a tunnel, etc. Totally overengineered. You need an excellent Management to lead and handle the Engineers. Limitless Engineering would lead to limitless desaster. Nothing better than the current situation. Management of Ford and GM certainly has failed in managing their business right, and leading the engineers in the right way. But the giving the engineers limitless influence would the D2.8 drive towards bankruptcy the same.
Katie, nevertheless, "Overengineering" takes place and can be quite harmful to Automanufacturers and other manufacturers. The S Class is certainly a showcase. But it is in some regards similar to the latest "Word" program: no one uses or even acknowledges the functionality. On the VW Golf, the engineers had introduced a rear axle which cost 500 Euro more per car - and nearly no one could notice. You have to strike a balance. And sometimes value lies in making things less complicated. From discussion with a patent guy I learned that "Entfeinern" is deemed to be better than "Verfeinern". Difficult to translate: Verfeinern makes things more delicate, better in detail. Entfeinern takes away the details and delicacy but ends up with parts which you can manufacture 100.000 times a day and which will last 10 years. See Ferdinand Piech of VW: he was later blamed to have been too fixed on technology, loosing sight of the business. With GM or Ford, management may have not enough Car business sense. But without them engineers would quickly run the company bankrupt as well.
Dr. Lemming, you are absolutely correct vis a vis the independent automakers of the 1950's. They were the ones who introduced radical new ideas (Packard invented air conditioning and torsion level suspension, Hudson brought about dropped floorpans, Nash revolutionized unit construction and interior climate control, Studebaker created the Hill Holder and beat Chevy to market with a low cost V8 by 4 years). The 2.8 became an oligarchy.