Last update: December 12th, 2008
Since Renault - Dacia demonstrated the success and interest for developping low cost car (the Logan), almost all manufacturers go for the Low Cost models.
Challenges are manifold.
Lean thinking from early R&D
First thought about R&D for low cost cars is to simplify the bill of material, extend the use of
common parts and reuse existing components for new and different vehicles.
Indeed, extending a component lifecycle or fitting it onto another vehicle brings economies of scale and saves costs for development and tooling, but it brings a small series of few dollar savings per vehicle. The low cost car needs savings in greater extends to cut the sales price from about 10,000 dollars to less than 5,000.
The new R&D approach has to cut with old solutions and search for breakthrough, radical innovation, considering the function globally. Most functions in a vehicle are built around a chain made of sensors, actuators, calculator and interface with driver. To make the significant savings, it is necessary to reinvent the whole and not try to optimise one or an other of these elements independently.
A dual approach; technical and marketing
The technical and marketing approach is dual (each on its own field) and both together as the acceptable technical solutions will come after enquiring customers' wishes by marketing.
In a car, the driver perceives the quality of a function only through its effects, for example braking with an anti blocking system (ABS). He perceives an esteem value through the interface, sole visible element, like the simple air-conditioning knob for a manual system, compared to the more sophisticated interface driving an automatic air conditioner with dual right-left setup.
A Lean design approach is cost efficiently in development phase but prepares Lean efficiency in later mass production. Indeed, manufacturing costs in are greatly related to early choices made during development. That's why it is necessary to think lean upstreams and early, for the choice of technical solutions as well as in terms of design for manufacturing.
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