When scale economy compromises quality


Using the same parts for different models of cars, and for different brands in the case of auto groups, is definitely an intelligent solution for cost containment and the allocation of fixed costs on a larger number of vehicles, besides the reduction of merchandise in stock by adopting a just in time production system.

But sometimes this industrial logic was adopted too hastily and without a careful analysis of the consequences. Today there are still cars with brake problems and car owners who complain of low braking power in their cars or overheating brakes resulting in the deformation and bothersome vibration of the pedal when braking.

Some cases can definitely be due to an overly “sporty” use of the car; however I don’t believe that 100% of the complaints are due to the driver’s behaviour.
This situation could be resolved with a slight oversizing of the brake disk for “base” models for example, which in terms of costs would only minimally influence the final cost of the product; if the costs sustained to resolve certain planning “defects” are considered then there would definitely be a significant savings, much greater than that obtained by undersizing.

Even the often used “carry-over”, the use of parts from previous models installed in new products, which definitely allows for a reduction of fixed and production costs, if adopted in an overly excessive manner leads to quality problems and performance/safety problems. Sometimes, unfortunately, the scale economy prevails over technical choices and often leads to questionable product quality.

It is unacceptable when car companies, even when recognising the problem, don’t substitute the part that is under warranty.
In some cases, because they changed many parts and realised the cost of the operation and in others because recognition of the defect comes after the legal guarantee is expired and the customer is not informed that he is eligible for a replacement.

To name only a few examples, in the first case, Audi brake problems in the early 2000s, in the second case, failure of the injectors for VW (about €800 apiece) that is occurring today.
Just the other day the owner of a Passat told me that he had to change the injectors in his car for the second time and it was done under warranty.
He, however, had already changed them some time before and let the dealer know. He was told that the company just now recognised the product defect so those who had already changed them could do nothing! In my opinion, this is truly incredible!

Even more disturbing is the fact that many times the same identical piece, sold however under two different brands but by the same car group, have two different list prices. The case of Citroen and Peugeot, for example, where the same mechanical and body part pieces used by models of both brands have different prices depending upon whether they are sold for one brand or the other.
The distribution of parts however seems to be the same for both Citroen and Peugeot and is operated by GEFCO Italia S.p.A.

What is the point of scale economy in these cases?

(Often unfortunately, in the case of the customer who complains about a brake vibration problem, the company policy is to not recognize the warranty even though they are aware of the problem. Then my last point has no meaning. The logic applied in this case is that the car has a problem and a problem recognized by the company, but since we’ve had too many so far, the part is no longer under warranty! So, due to mistakes made during the planning phase, the end customer is always the loser.

Paolo Camerin

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