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Old 4th April 2007, 11:28   #1
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Default New Car development : An insider perspective - From drawing board to customer

Well let me have an opportunity of sharing in brief, the process of new vehicle development, with respect to modern automotive industry scenario, of which I am a part as a professional.

Starting with a brief about myself, after my auto engg.7 years ago I started my career with a large Indian OEM into their R&D center as a body designer. Learnt the things pretty fast, then the opportunity came calling from Germany (my current base) from a very reputed design house. So far have designed for most of the reputed German OEMís (no names here) & worked globally at different locations from china to Europe.

Ok coming back to topicÖ.

Market survey & product identification: This is a very initial step done by specialized people to identify a vehicle category to launch a future product. It can be either identifying a complete new segment (like quadricycle segment in India has been recently explored), or identifying an existing category for potential sales making similar, preferably a better product depending upon cost, target segment etc.

Feasibility study: Then a team of experts carries out an extensive feasibility study, ranging from sales potential to cost input, target sales, technical issues, legal issues, and the list is very long, so letís cut it short. If the identified category/target product seems to satisfy the feasibility potential then the project is given a go ahead.

THE DESIGN PROCESS:
Here onwards the design team takes over comprising of several teams of specialists mainly planning people, stylists, industrial designers, engineering design specialists(body-Interior & exterior designers), vehicle integration teams, analysts(ergonomics, crash & safety, dynamics etc.), engine team, electrical team, Prototype team, testing team, material team, tooling team, mfg team, process team etc. all working in close coordination along with planning people.

Fixing of hard points: depending upon intended vehicle category & existing legislation for that category in target market, some basic hard points are fixed like Max width, max length, max height, front & rear overhang, wheelbase, wheel-track, ramp-break-over angle, approach angle, departure angle, H-point(hip-point the most imp one), various criterion like visibility, reach, sting posture etc. All of them are fixed as per legal requirements.

Styling: from here the concept starts. First step is the design board. Design board is the broad term used for idea generation, all the ideas which crop up , are put into design board, not necessarily the vehicle sketches, it may be an inspiration from an animal, or a theme, or anything else . For example jaguar has used the animal jaguar as basic idea on design board, the sleekness of styling curves & agility of vehicle closely matches that of a jaguar. Another example is a concept developed by Daimler Chrysler based on box fish.

These ideas are picked up by industrial designers & they translate it into initial concept sketches of vehicle while maintaining basic hard points as guidelines. Then out of these numerous concept sketches some are short listed to visualize in 3-Dimensions, using computer graphics or a virtual 3-d environment, or even some physical models.

Then a final concept is selected, & real work begins. Mostly a clay model 1:1 is made by experts to like an exact replica of actual vehicle. Or alternatively now a dayís direct 3-dimesional computer model can be made, showing basic styling job. Even clay model is scanned by electronic means to be translated into basic 3-dimensional styling model. This is very raw model confirming only to basic hard points & styling cues. Itís more of an artistic depiction till this stage.

Class-A surfacing: Here starts the translating of art into engineering, the styling model is taken and corrected to generate mathematically correct Class-A surfaces (not going into details if some one likes to ask please feel free). Thus Class a Team generates just correct engineering surfaces to be used on actual vehicle but model is still a skin (no internal parts just a thin skin having no thickness depicting basic shape of vehicle). Simultaneously interior is also conceived exactly in same phases as exterior going parallel.

Engineering design: I forgot to mention that basic closures (doors, flaps, hood, deck lid) & openings (windows. Windshield opening) curves are already fixed in initial stages, but can be changed in later stage while still adhering to legal & ergonomic guidelines.

Here onwards many teams take over simultaneously, like analysts start having basic aerodynamic testing, body specialists starts on part & panels, vehicle integration team starts on various aggregates & so on. While giving a constant feedback to each other the design goes on changing in order to reach an optimal solution for every finer point & detail.

Master section book of body & other parts is made, detailing each & every part in basic, then actual parts are designed (all functional & aesthetic parts) & given to analysis people & other related teams for their feedback & suggestions.

After many iterations first optimal solution is reached & prototype is made (either tooled up or fabricated) for basic testing involving every aspect of mfg, design & durability, of course safety comfort & NVH are taken care of every specialist team takes care of their arena.

After first proto many changes may occur some might even force some styling to be changed on account of something or other. Basically the whole cycle is repeated until a feasible practical design, optimized in all aspects is reached.

While design process is going on Mfg & process team keeps on updating mfg plan & process & equipments used to mfg (may be assembly line changes, robots etc.)

Simultaneously certification & legal testing with approved govt. agency is also carried out (in India it is ARAI). Then the pilot lot is prepared & taken out for actual field testing for durability & practical testing. Followed by a pilot launch of few vehicles for testing purpose to selected customers or agencies to get actual customer feedback & changes are done to design as desired.

Then finally the new model is officially announced in market for sales. It is a long & tedious process, more importantly design is a continuous process which goes on after product launch to tackle initial problems as well as constant upgrade of current model throughout its intended lifecycle.
I hope this gives a little idea about how it goes from design board to customer. It is indeed a very brief idea; I have missed many details to keep it short. If anybody wants detail on any topic please feel free to ask, I shall be glad to share.
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Old 4th April 2007, 12:48   #2
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Thanks for this. Where do concept cars fit in??
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Old 13th April 2007, 15:04   #3
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Originally Posted by kutlee View Post
Thanks for this. Where do concept cars fit in??
well asked!

Concept cars can describe 3 purposes:
1. pure muscle flexing exercise to showcase the company(most of the time it is for this reason)

2. showcasing of new technology(might see production in future)

3.showcasing an extremely new concept, based on utility or a new vehicle segment ( good chances of seeing day light)

so for concept cars, remove last few steps of mass production & tooling.

Plus the intend is to make a few batch produced versions by hand, rest of the process remains more or less same, but mass production techniques are not used.

It is more of art & craft rather than practical engineering detail (i mean not in all areas) of production vehicle.
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Old 19th April 2007, 23:43   #4
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Awesome overview arunforu1,

Thanks for taking the time to put this up.

I was wondering, since you have worked in germany as well as india, how different was the process between the two places (or from manufacturer to manufacturer?). Were some parts of the process given more importance and were some parts simply ignored?

Also can you further explain this, and why it is the most important one -
Quote:
H-point(hip-point the most imp one),
cya
R
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Old 19th April 2007, 23:50   #5
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I remember reading about "car clinics" to gauge response.
Lately there is no mention of car clinics and all new cars are shrouded in secrecy before launch. Any idea why this change all of a sudden.
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Old 20th April 2007, 02:15   #6
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Very nice, Arun.

Can you elaborate on the Class A surfaces?
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Old 20th April 2007, 08:38   #7
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Class A surface is one that is readily visible to the customer and is perceived as symbolic of the quality of the entire vehicle. For example a door inner panel is not a class A surface because it is covered by the door pad. A door outer panel is because its covered only by paint.

By "surface", i dont mean the coating or the paint thats given to it, rather its the quality of the surface itself (roughness, waviness, orange peel, luder bands). Although paint also plays a significant role its of no use if the surface has imperfections.


Class A surfaces are of utmost importance to us metal forming guys and gives us 90% of the headaches. Dont want to elaborate unless someone asks.

Last edited by ananthkamath : 20th April 2007 at 08:39.
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Old 20th April 2007, 09:03   #8
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Very information writeup. Thanks. One question, would you be in a position to share how exactly a car company goes about pricing its model?

Sometimes a company prices a car just right, as per general expectations and valuation, while other times they seem to be way off, and have to resort to price cuts down the line.
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Old 20th April 2007, 11:04   #9
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Originally Posted by Rehaan View Post
Awesome overview arunforu1,

Thanks for taking the time to put this up.

I was wondering, since you have worked in germany as well as india, how different was the process between the two places (or from manufacturer to manufacturer?). Were some parts of the process given more importance and were some parts simply ignored?

Also can you further explain this, and why it is the most important one -
R
Well the process remains more or less same on any location in world, There are slight changes depending on:

1. Vehicle category (like trucks have less aesthetic constraints then a car, but more devoted on durability say 500,000+kms without an overhaul)

2.Company image & profile: one of very well known german automaker believes in design perfection & aesthetics while its competitor who is also very well known ,follows simplicity & practicality in design.

3.Business Model: Japanese mfg concentrates more on very very optimised details of every part to save, weight, cost & dev time, while germans follow ruggedness, durability & safety more. An avaerage japanese car may be good for 6-7 years of use, but german vehicles never die.

In india now a days our design industry is in its infancy, but growing very fast. Sadly here we dont see modern technology in common cars, not because our mfg are not capable, but because most important factor is of cost.

Most funny example i have seen in real life is of my very close friend & colleague, who designed a very nice driver seat, putiing up close to 5 months in studying concieving & actual design & finally the prototype. But it took only 5 minutes to scrap that design on suggestion of a foolish engineer in a cost cutting meeting. Sadly his design was replaced by a bench of perforated sheet: foolish argument was that it is intended for a truck & driver could put his own cushion.

But then law changed after 6 months & his design was finally included. For this cost cutting companies are forced to.Avg indian customer is very clever & most demanding.

well For H-Point, it is called as Hip point, of a maniquin(sometime spelled as manikin), depending upon percentile manikin choosen for an inteneded market, all dimensions like heal point, toe point, torso line, neck position, handreach, & visibilty can be decided, based on H-point.

One more thing to add, besides cost cutting , assembly process time is being reduced with every new design globally, sadly over stressing of both is causing quality to be compromised on some point or other.
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Old 20th April 2007, 11:08   #10
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I remember reading about "car clinics" to gauge response.
Lately there is no mention of car clinics and all new cars are shrouded in secrecy before launch. Any idea why this change all of a sudden.
Well like piracy in software, design theft is often pass off as "inspired from", so new dev is shrouded in secrecy.

Not only this, but it is also done to hide companies longterm intrest & plans from competitors.To gain an edge with early entry in a particular segment.

Sometimes it is used just to create a cruosity amongst customer & competitors both alike, to gain attention.
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Old 20th April 2007, 11:19   #11
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Originally Posted by v1p3r View Post
Very nice, Arun.

Can you elaborate on the Class A surfaces?
Well "class A Surface" is a mathematical description of a surface.

definition: A surface of second order equation, that is having all, point continuity, tangent continuity & curvature continuity.

Basically all surfaces visible to customer, interior as well as exterior are classified as 'Class-A".

Purpose of using class A: When you see reflection lines on a gleaming new car, in a part light/part shade environment.You shoulb be able to see crisp reflection lines, free of waviness/blurring/sudden break od continuity.

These panels are designed on speacial softwares like ICEM-SURF, using modern techs, checking is obviously done with light reflection methods.But alas final checking of a class a panel is done by some very experienced guy who feels the panels with hands & can pin point discontnuity even which may have escaped light test(but only for luxury cars)

I hope this clears the basic about Class-A, & i hope explaining mathematics would be too boring here
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Old 20th April 2007, 11:23   #12
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Originally Posted by DriverR View Post
Very information writeup. Thanks. One question, would you be in a position to share how exactly a car company goes about pricing its model?

Sometimes a company prices a car just right, as per general expectations and valuation, while other times they seem to be way off, and have to resort to price cuts down the line.
Driver R, there is no fixed formula of fixing the price of a car.

Basic govering factors are:
1. Target Market Segment
2.Pricing of Competitor
3.Costs Incured in development
4.Intended Profit
5.Life cycle of that particular model
6.Forecasting of break even
7.Some time mfg may charge an undue premium for new technology
8.Finally Govt policy
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Old 20th April 2007, 11:28   #13
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Originally Posted by arunforu1 View Post
Well like piracy in software, design theft is often pass off as "inspired from", so new dev is shrouded in secrecy.

Not only this, but it is also done to hide companies longterm intrest & plans from competitors.To gain an edge with early entry in a particular segment.

Sometimes it is used just to create a cruosity amongst customer & competitors both alike, to gain attention.
I understand that for a new car perspective.
But for a car which is being sold worlwide for more than a year? India seldom is the "First market" for a new car.
Case in point.
1. Hyundai Verna(was sold abroad before)
2. New Baleno(SX4 is old)
3. Zen Estilo

Infact anything except for Mahindra and Tata is sold outside first.
I understand the curiosity part, but since people can anyways see the pictures on the web, whats the secrecy?
Whenever the spy shot is taken, magazines can go on internet and show you full design!
Having a car clinic can atleast tell you whether the target market will like the car or not.
Is this not a better way?
For example Skoda Fabia is being tested shrouded in zebra patterns. You can look at the pics on web of European spec models. But still secrecy as if its a top secret design?
Would it not be better if the company holds a few clinics to gauge response and then decide whether to launch or not?
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Old 20th April 2007, 12:22   #14
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Originally Posted by tsk1979 View Post
I understand that for a new car perspective.
the pictures on the web, whats the secrecy?
Whenever the spy shot is taken, magazines can go on internet and show you full design!
Would it not be better if the company holds a few clinics to gauge response and then decide whether to launch or not?
Well secrecy for an existing design exists, owing to point 2 & 3, besides its marketing gimmick too. But here question comes, why to test an already existing & proven vehicle?

The answer is homologation. While homologation process is on, many different competitor employees/rep. may be present at homolaogatin agency, as every model launched in india have to be homologated through ARAI. So as to safe guard companies interests, this is done.

But secret is out in industry first, then in market, when it is already leaked, then this spy pics gimmick is played ( a new form of customer clinic...LOL)

If actual intent is to safeguard the design, beleive me, not even company insider's (execpet those working on project), can know if something is going on, forget about spypics. Often teams working on a new project might not know what the complete vehicle may look like(they have access to there specific areas only), except few coordinators.

So this design leaked out/spy pics in mags are nothing but marketing gimmicks. If it would have been the case the OEM's might sue the magazines, which they dont do often.

Well to gauge response, as i mentioned in original topic, a pilot launch is done. Vehicles are given to trusted old customers or to testing agencies. This is done to actually gauge the response plus ironing out flaws.after PILOT LAUNCH, the vehicle is out in market.

Last edited by arunforu1 : 20th April 2007 at 12:31.
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Old 7th May 2007, 09:54   #15
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Awesome information there Arun!

Heres another Q -
Do ALL vehicles spend some time in the windtunnel (and if so, is it always fullsize, or mostly scaled down?)

And by ALL vehicles i mean to include trucks and busses in the question as well....

cya
R
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