Friday, February 17, 2017

Problems are opportunities dressed in work clothes

I got a call from one of my former co-workers last night.  He is a year older than I am and he started with The Company three months before I did.  He calls me "Joey" from the Olympian heights of that age and seniority advantage.

We are the most unlikely of friends.  I am as polished as a potato.  My friend  is more of a ball bearing.  We had each other's back.

Part way through our conversation I went on a rant regarding the cost of government regulation and how the world would be a better place if they backed off and let the customers decide.

"Joey, you are wrong."
That is what he told me, knowing full well that I am a blogger who is famous the length and breadth of Eaton Rapids.

"Joey, you are wrong."

I asked him to enlighten me.  I try to keep an open mind and Ball Bearing is a smart guy.

"There were other benefits.  I will not give you exact numbers but the cost of emissions controls runs between $100 and $700 per vehicle.  The cost of meeting crashworthiness requirements, less the cost of air bags, is between $20 and $100 per vehicle."

"When was the last time you had to adjust your carburetor, change your spark plugs, replace a cam-shaft, do a valve job or rebore the cylinders?  All of those improvements can be attributed to the fact that there was no other way to meet emissions requirements...the base engine cannot puke oil smoke or it will poison the catalytic converter.  We would have never implemented those improvements, real improvements for the customer, because the bean-counters would have killed them if not for emissions regulations."

"People used to brag when they had a vehicle that hit 100,000 miles. Now they expect 250,000 miles."
The metal in pre-Regulation bodies is tissue thin.

"Part of that is the use of heavier steel in the bodies/frames.  And that steel is usually galvanized.  That was not driven by a desire to give customers bodies capable of going 500,000 miles.  It was driven by the need to keep the crash pulse consistent regardless of how old the vehicle was.  A body rail that unzips would likely cause the airbag to not deploy.  The bean-counters (grudgingly) approved that increased cost because it was the only way to pass "Crash".
I told him I would have to think on that a little bit.  Then I asked him if he could give me an example of a problem that did not get resolved because it was not impacted by Federal Regulations?

Ball Bearing thought a second or two and then said:

"How about the cars with the fuel fill door on the right side?  The Company subcontracted some design work out to a British firm in the late 1970s and the Brits designed the fuel fill door on the driver's side....for a British car that is driven on the left side of the road.  But it is on the wrong side for drivers in the United States and Canada.

The issue was caught too late to change before it went into production.


It never got fixed and is still annoyed drivers almost 40 years later.

The bean-counters never approved mirroring it over to the left side of the car (the driver's side for most of the world) because there was never any compelling need.  That and the fact that there was never a Federal Regulation that resulted in us tearing up that end of the car...giving us the opportunity to "fix" that issue as a side benefit.

You see, Joey, problems are opportunities dressed in work clothes.  I can get a lot of good work done if you give me a big enough of a problem."
 Theory is simple.  Reality is complicated.  Ideologues are blind.  I thanked Ball Bearing for giving me something to think about.

5 comments:

  1. "Ball Bearing" is indeed a very smart guy. It might be a little harder for him to explain all the improvements in automobile manufacture *before* the government intervened. The consumer is quite capable of driving (PI) product improvement, both through the pocketbook method and through other means of feedback.

    Additionally, he fails to take into account the possibility that owners actually *liked* to "...adjust your carburetor, change your spark plugs, replace a cam-shaft, do a valve job or rebore the cylinders." Today's automobile maintenance has been largely taken out of the hands of the owner and placed in the hands of your friendly neighborhood dealer or service business. This is a cost partly due to design improvements, true, but the most exclusive of them are tied to government regulations in form and function.

    In summary, I reject "Ball Bearing"'s argument in that he cherry picks their scope without including peripheral consequences.

    Warmest regards from a fanatical follower!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank-you for commenting.

      I run essay's like Ball Bearing's opinion because it has value if only because of its rarity. BB delivered a coherent stream of logic. It was not bombastic or bullying or overburdened with emotion.

      The portion of the blog-o-sphere that entertains opposing view points is as populated as WWI's no-man's land. I will not post ad hominem attacks but I value solid reasoning even if it goes against my grain.

      Again, thanks for reading and thanks for taking the time to comment.

      Delete
  2. I think that ball bearing had it pretty much on the nose. I say a lot, that when a car used to get close to 100k miles on it, you started to look to unload it, because it started to nickle and dime you to death. Now, if you don't get 250k miles out of one, something went wrong. I think that mostly it is because it is always running in tune, constantly being adjusted by the computer. I hadn't thought about the steel and it's contribution. But I am sure that Detroit and the other places where vehicles are built are turning out some of the best cars that we have ever seen. The electronic doo dads are not really needed, but are what consumers indicate that they want.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think that ball bearing had it pretty much on the nose. I say a lot, that when a car used to get close to 100k miles on it, you started to look to unload it, because it started to nickle and dime you to death. Now, if you don't get 250k miles out of one, something went wrong. I think that mostly it is because it is always running in tune, constantly being adjusted by the computer. I hadn't thought about the steel and it's contribution. But I am sure that Detroit and the other places where vehicles are built are turning out some of the best cars that we have ever seen. The electronic doo dads are not really needed, but are what consumers indicate that they want.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I always thought passenger side filler doors were for the more expensive cars that would have a full-service gas purchase and the cheaper cars would have left hand doors for the self-serve customers.

    ReplyDelete