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Old 3rd February 2020, 16:28   #1
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Default Testing standards followed by OEMs - How are the prototypes tested?

DISCLAIMER: This is not a thread to bash any manufacturer but to understand the testing process followed by OEMs, Indian and the Global ones.
I have used examples, references and images of some models which were easily available on interest. However these thoughts would apply to all the OEMs and their models.


Before any new car is launched in India or even other global markets, we see the prototypes of these new cars being tested on the road. Looking at the number of niggles reported in the new launches in our market, makes me wonder how does the OEM test the product before launching in the market. Do they have a plan where, after X number of KMs of testing, they collect feedback, change and try a different set of parts? Does anyone have an insight into the process followed by the OEMs while testing a new model?

Mechanical Setup

Testing of the mechanical structure is the most important – engine, gearbox, chassis, suspension and brakes. To test them, the prototypes are run on different road/traffic situations. However most of the spy pics show these variants running on different wheel, tyre specifications, different body panels and definitely different lights. Apart from the mechanicals, most of the vehicle would be different from the production-spec variant.

DISCLAIMER: Images taken from the internet. Image rights belong to the respective owners.

Check out the prototype variants of the upcoming XUV500
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Check out those steel wheels
Testing standards followed by OEMs - How are the prototypes tested?-2020mahindraxuv500rearspiedside5.jpg

Harrier was also spotted with steel wheels. Do they come on the lower variants?
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So, let's talk about testing of the mechanical setup of the car
  • What’s the minimum number of KMs the vehicles are driven? How many different drivers are involved in this testing? Is the emission testing done while the vehicles are running on actual roads (to prevent VW like scandals)?
  • Are the cars tested using normal fuel available across fuel bunks in our country? In case of KIA seltos, the OEM claims the car was tested extensively with BS4 fuel but users are still facing issue after running the cars on BS4 fuel. On the other hand, a friend of mine told me that another OEM tested its BS6 powered cars using BS6 fuel sourced specially and made available to the test fleet.

Electrical and Interiors

We usually see the test cars are spotted with dummy lights and exterior panels. Many of the interior trims are ill-fitted/removed/missing. The trims are also camouflaged to be hidden from the public. Sometimes different variants of the car have significantly different feature list, all of which need to be tested separately. So what actually are the standard fittings in a test car? How long before the actual trim levels are fitted in the test cars? And then how long are the actual interior fittings used for testing?

Check out the hand rest cover is peeling off, the gear lever is different and the door panels are not in the best shape.
Testing standards followed by OEMs - How are the prototypes tested?-harrier-gear-lever-handrest-door-panel.jpg

We are told the production spec variant will have different/better quality fittings. When are those production spec parts tested before roll-out?

This Harrier sports different headlights, just the XUV posted earlier
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This tail light looks different as well and never made it to the production variant
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  • How’s the durability of the interior trims tested? (Example of commonly reported issues: broken AC vents in a Ciaz, common rattles found in various models)
  • How’s the performance of the ICE tested under standard operating condition? (variety of issues in the Harrier HU)

See this partially covered HU screen
Testing standards followed by OEMs - How are the prototypes tested?-tatah5xinteriorspyshotsdashboard.jpg

Similar interior setup of the XUV. I am sure the quality of interior parts in this car are not going to make it to the production spec!
Testing standards followed by OEMs - How are the prototypes tested?-2020mahindraxuv500dashboardspied2.jpg
  • How’s the efficiency of the AC tested under full load condition? Test cars are rarely seen with full load of passengers. (AC in the first gen i20 was not upto the mark, Seltos rear vents give out warm air)

This test car doesn't have any passengers in the rear seat
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  • How’s the performance and durability of the lights tested? (Inadequate lights in Ford Figo, fogging of the reflector, dancing projector issue in the Brezza and Baleno, fog lamps cracking away, etc).

How does one gauge the performance of the stock production spec headlamps through all those camouflage? Is this why we don't get decent stock headlamps in the newer cars?
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Looks production spec, ha? This has additional auxiliary lamps attached
Testing standards followed by OEMs - How are the prototypes tested?-harrier-prod-variant.jpg

Retest?

Finally, the testing is anyway done to identify issues with the design and quality. If some part/component is found to be faulty, how long before a replacement is designed and produced for testing? Does the testing count resume from scratch? If an OEM claims that a car is tested for 10L kms, does it mean the production ready variant has covered those many KMs successfully? I guess, not!


Patch-Fixes?

In the same breath, let me raise another question - how does an OEM come up with quick fixes to major problems reported after launch?

Mahindra could replace the faulty suspension in the XUV300 so shortly after it was reported, initial lot of Harriers were reported to for steering calibration issues but were fixed within six months, Baleno suspension system were replaced with different parts.

How long were these fixes tested before releasing it to the public? Definitely not a million KMs. Why were such major issues not identified and/or fixed before launch if the fix was a short/easy one?

Last edited by ashis89 : 3rd February 2020 at 22:59. Reason: Adding images and some more content
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Old 4th February 2020, 08:06   #2
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Default re: Testing standards followed by OEMs - How are the prototypes tested?

Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 4th February 2020, 16:54   #3
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Default Re: Testing standards followed by OEMs - How are the prototypes tested?

Great question, and a detailed comprehensive response would be an essay in itself. I will try to shed some light from my own experience working in R&D for one of the top 5 companies in the Indian market.

The testing involves various factors like the vehicle reliability, component durability, performance parameters, response to weather conditions, etc.

The vehicle reliability involves running of a significant number of vehicles in different conditions like Expressway driving, general highway driving, city driving, off-roading (for SUVs) and also some vehicles in a mix of all these wherein a percentage of total target is assigned to each condition. While off-roading tests are only for 5 to 10 thousand kms and city durability for 50,000 to 75,000 kms, the highway and expressway drives are for about 1.5 lakh kms each. Certain vehicles are allotted for certain tests only and not mixed and matched. Each vehicle is inspected for component failures at the end of each shift. While consumable and serviceable components (like brakes, tyres, etc) are evaluated for service life, failures of mechanical components result in design correction and often result in reseting of the effective running back to Zero and starting again.

Durability testing of components like door handles, glove boxes, steering column, door locks, boot, etc are fitted to automated jigs which continuously operate for a set number of cycles. Several engines are running on engine dynamometers round the clock.

For the performance testing, the vehicles are taken to various testing locations, such as VRDE for top speed, acceleration, road bumps and potholes on a simulated track along with gradability. They have a banked oval at VRDE where the cars are tested for top speeds. Testing expeditions to hot locations in peak summers in Rajasthan and cold locations in the himalayas during peak winters to ensure that engines start in the coldest of conditions whilst not overheating in extreme heat. Air-conditioner is also evaluated during such tests. This is why enthusiasts often spot and report testing vehicles in locations far far away from their R&D and factory locations.

Testing for ABS and ESC are done at specialised tracks, often abroad where different road grip conditions are simulated.

All these tests are also part of tuning and calibration for optimal results.

Regarding components such as lights and wheels, the aesthetic components can be changed at any time without affecting the vehicle in any way. I am not sure about the light designs and testing.

Regarding your question about quick fixes available from manufacturers, most niggles that cone up in a new lot of vehicle is due to variations in manufacturing tolerances/QC rather than design deficiency. I would emphasise on the word "most". I'm not claiming that all niggles fall into that category alone. The suspension issue in XUV300 was also a similar issue. Often vendors at the time of ramping up production from trial stage to mass production end up on bungling on the QC. So providing quick fixes is not too difficult but often end up damaging reputation of the vehicle /brand.

Hope this helps.

Last edited by GTO : 6th February 2020 at 08:56. Reason: small typo
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Old 4th February 2020, 17:25   #4
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Default Re: Testing standards followed by OEMs - How are the prototypes tested?

Quote:
Originally Posted by niteshbids View Post
.

Durability testing of components like door handles, glove boxes, steering column, door locks, boot, etc are fitted to automated jigs which continuously operate for a set number of cycles. Several engines are running on engine dynamometers round the clock.
Posting some videos of automated testing process of components I found online:



















Remember seeing such test simulators in a documentary on XUV500.

Regards,
Shashi
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Old 4th February 2020, 21:39   #5
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Default Re: Testing standards followed by OEMs - How are the prototypes tested?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ashis89 View Post
In the same breath, let me raise another question - how does an OEM come up with quick fixes to major problems reported after launch?
Quote:
Originally Posted by niteshbids View Post
most niggles that cone up in a new lot of vehicle is due to variations in manufacturing tolerances/QC rather than design deficiency. I would emphasise on the word "most". I'm not claiming that all niggles fall into that category alone.
And some (low risk concerns / dissatisfaction items) were identified long back, solution is on the way but couldn't meet the vehicle launch schedule, fix the same post launch
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Old 5th February 2020, 02:07   #6
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Default Re: Testing standards followed by OEMs - How are the prototypes tested?

I seriously believe the fact that the testing doesn't end even after the launch of a new vehicle. The first 6 months, the customers are the testers (guinea pigs to be put bluntly). It's like User Acceptance Testing Feedback collection, updates, patches, fixes are provided during this time. That's why I always try to stay away from buying brand new launches.
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Old 5th February 2020, 11:55   #7
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Default Re: Testing standards followed by OEMs - How are the prototypes tested?

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Originally Posted by Altocumulus View Post
I seriously believe the fact that the testing doesn't end even after the launch of a new vehicle. The first 6 months, the customers are the testers (guinea pigs to be put bluntly). It's like User Acceptance Testing Feedback collection, updates, patches, fixes are provided during this time. That's why I always try to stay away from buying brand new launches.
Actual testing of the car happens in the real world after the car is launched in the market.
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Old 5th February 2020, 16:21   #8
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Default Re: Testing standards followed by OEMs - How are the prototypes tested?

Good questions (so many of them)...

niteshbids has already answered in detail, hence I'll try to avoid repetition.

Disclaimer : I have no experience in this field. I will answer some of the questions though, based on my interaction with people closely involved into such testing operations.

Very first thing to mention is, when a mule (inside name for prototype) is being tested, focus is limited. For example, Maruti will not be testing K10/12 engine in a mule (well, unless goal is that of testing BS-VI engine). It's already proven mill. Similarly, test driver is a driver. He's not going to test rear blowers for you. Hence the vehicles in most cases may not have everything functional. It is advantageous in a different way, as tester/designer has less variables that would interfere object of primary focus.

For the fuel, at-least if testing is being done near company facility, they fill it up at their private pumps (yes, companies have pumps inside the premises). So they have grade/quality control there.

For the reason I mentioned at the beginning, mules will almost never get complete spec (correct me if I am wrong, anyone). Lesser variables, better. Especially you don't want your test driver distracted by the ICE (cruel, I know!).

For load, you don't need passengers. Companies would keep sand bags in appropriate space to load vehicle. They'd be placed in foot-well, luggage space, etc.

Headlamps are made as per regulations. Throw length, height at that length and the intensity at various points of plane is dictated by governing authority. Hence they are tested at dedicated (may be indoor) test facility, not necessarily on vehicle itself. (Free info : This is why, if you send a car with externally raised headlamp setting to authorized service station (many of them), you'll receive it back with headlamps lowered).

I have tried to answer from knowledge I have. Please pardon my mistakes.
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Old 6th February 2020, 19:36   #9
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Default Re: Testing standards followed by OEMs - How are the prototypes tested?

Have you witnessed a Hans Zimmer concert? There are singers, pianists, percussionists, guitarists, flautist, violinists and the conductor himself ensuring that every note, every frequency is in tune and perfect harmony. Say over 2 to 3 hours these musicians surrender themselves to the conductor to perform and deliver a near perfect, seamless musical experience to the audience.

For a car to work as rhythmically as concert music, a similar set of people would need to work with equal precision and balance for over 2-3 years. Marketing, design, manufacturing, supply management, testing, quality, finance, hr, admin and many other musicians contribute with their individual competencies under the watchful eye of the program manager. Needless to say it doesn't work as seamlessly as desired.

I have been working in the industry for over 15 years in new product development and very rarely have I experienced project CFTs working seamlessly to deliver the big picture, although OEM leaders would want you to believe otherwise.

Never, I repeat never is technology as much a challenge as behavior and communication is. When individual goals and department goals supersede the project goals, it is unlikely that a perfect product will ever emerge. Having said that, project do get delivered, it isn't the case that everything is bleak, but for all the musicians to keep the balance of "time-cost-quality" and individual aspirations and yet deliver the symphony is frankly too tough a task.

Our workplaces are known for mammoth ego caves of different departments. For so many beasts to agree upon one thing is a task in itself, more so when everyone knows how the "other" department should function. Don't get me wrong, people work extremely hard to get the design right to get components developed in the least possible time and cost, to test the engines and transmissions and vehicles in the most severe conditions, but for defect free vehicles to emerge these hardworking people have to shed their individual egos and surrender to the project, which never happens.

Eventually tactical compromises are made, backed up by very smartly done "risk assessment" presentations to ensure that the products are launched in an Auto Expo or the chairman's birthday or for the big Diwali season, etc.

I can go on and on about how the "stage-gate" process works, how prototype are build and lab tests and road tests are conducted and all of that, trust me, all the processes are fine, the standards are correct, the homologation directives are in place, but tools don't drive the process, people do. Listen to the Hans Zimmer concert, you will be delighted, it will take some time for a delightful car to come our way.


Last edited by Aditya2703 : 6th February 2020 at 20:03.
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Old 6th February 2020, 21:37   #10
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Default Re: Testing standards followed by OEMs - How are the prototypes tested?

Durability testing is an area where the bean counters and engineers target to extract further cost savings. Every country has a minimum requirement for homologation and OEM's typically design products to meet that standard plus keep a slight buffer.
However if the OEM is ruthless, a trait which most OEM's possess, they even eke out the last savings by "optimising" the component's performance testing criteria.
For example: OEM A performs a door slam test over 150,000 cycles. OEM B , operating in the same product segment , studies the legislation very carefully and runs the same test at 65,000 cycles.
Both meet the minimum requirement: OEM A maybe has a better "buffer" while OEM B just meets the homologation norms.
But OEM B will be laughing all the way to the bank. Because the less rigourous durability test cycle that OEM B undertook means the parts and components supporting door opening / shutting can be designed at lower specifications! Hence, OEM B may use a cheaper hinge design, a narrower diameter door pin, a thinner & flatter checkstrap and may eliminate any "stepped door opening" design.
OEM B saves a lot. As per the old adage: penny saved , is a penny earned!
Also, OEM B's car doesn't violate the host country's norms.
OEM B's car doors start rattling within 3 years while OEM A's car door remain rattle free even after 5 years.
Customer - specially the ever forgiving and patient Indian customer does not raise much of a hullabaloo. His/her point would most probably be " hey, I've used the vehicle for 3 years, so i guess things can get a bit wonky after all"
OEM B is happy.
Not all OEM's can do this. This requires a fine understanding and balancing act between OEM brand positioning in selling country, thorough understanding of selling country minimum norms and a deep understanding of customer's minimum "perceived quality " threshold in the selling country.
In India, this trait has been mastered by Maruti Tata Motors & Renault.
Honda tried to emulate but made a hash of things. VW got all trussed up and handed over everything to their Czech family member.

To summarise, aggregate testing and it's optimisation down to its last thread, nut , bolt , temperature etc is a black art. Once an OEM masters it, it's truly in a league of its own.
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Old 10th February 2020, 15:26   #11
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Default Re: Testing standards followed by OEMs - How are the prototypes tested?

Quote:
Originally Posted by niteshbids View Post
I will try to shed some light from my own experience working in R&D for one of the top 5 companies in the Indian market.
Thanks!

Quote:
While consumable and serviceable components (like brakes, tyres, etc) are evaluated for service life, failures of mechanical components result in design correction and often result in reseting of the effective running back to Zero and starting again.
Starting from Zero is reassuring but it will have significant impact on the product launch timelines. I hope the OEMs don't skimp on testing to meet the deadlines!

Quote:
Durability testing of components like door handles, glove boxes, steering column, door locks, boot, etc are fitted to automated jigs which continuously operate for a set number of cycles.
This isn't actual operating condition and won't give the actual test result. What happens when these trims, fitted in the car, are exposed to 45 degrees temperature when parked on a sunny day? What happens to the trims when the car runs on a broken road repeatedly for 100s of kms?

Quote:
Air-conditioner is also evaluated during such tests. This is why enthusiasts often spot and report testing vehicles in locations far far away from their R&D and factory locations.
We don't see many engine reliability issues being reported. However such performance tests should form a small part of the overall testing. The actual tests need to conducted on the roads. The DCT heating issues in the Seltos and Venue would be difficult to note on a test track.

Similarly, while running tests for the air-conditioner, the car should be fully loaded with passengers. This will reveal if the AC is sufficient for the rear passengers or in case of multiple vents, if airflow in the vents are upto the mark.

Quote:
Hope this helps.
Thanks for the insights! Can you shed some light into the QC process followed when getting parts from vendors and assembling them? Any idea about the terms and conditions with the vendors around QC?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Leoshashi View Post
Posting some videos of automated testing process of components I found online:
Thanks for sharing these videos, Shashi! In the first video, where the robots are testing the doors, they are doing it very gently. Any idea if these tests are designed to try varying slamming forces which will simulate real life conditions? They need to run such tests on vehicles which have run for thousands of kms, to see how those components have withstood the abuse.

That would be a real case of integration testing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by akshye View Post
It is advantageous in a different way, as tester/designer has less variables that would interfere object of primary focus.
During initial test runs of a model, focused testing is the correct approach. However once the issues are ironed out, all the actual components should be fitted and tested in real life scenarios, including the air conditioner with rear blowers. Otherwise, we can say, the integration testing was not done or not up to the mark.

Quote:
For the fuel, at-least if testing is being done near company facility, they fill it up at their private pumps (yes, companies have pumps inside the premises). So they have grade/quality control there.
Again this is unfair during the last leg of testing. If a vehicle is expected to be refueled at fuel bunks across the country, the mule should be refueled at standard bunks across the country. Otherwise we will see owners reporting DPF clogging issues when the cars are run on the normal fuel.

Quote:
Headlamps are made as per regulations. Throw length, height at that length and the intensity at various points of plane is dictated by governing authority. Hence they are tested at dedicated (may be indoor) test facility, not necessarily on vehicle itself.
Headlight design is fine but testing the lights in the test facility won't give correct results. Unless the mule is run on the road with the factory spec lights you won't know - How is the illumination is on a foggy day/rainy night? Do the lights heat up/melt/crack after prolonged use?

Quote:
I have tried to answer from knowledge I have.
Thanks!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aditya2703 View Post
I have been working in the industry for over 15 years in new product development and very rarely have I experienced project CFTs working seamlessly to deliver the big picture, although OEM leaders would want you to believe otherwise.

I can go on and on about how the "stage-gate" process works, how prototype are build and lab tests and road tests are conducted and all of that, trust me, all the processes are fine, the standards are correct, the homologation directives are in place, but tools don't drive the process, people do.
Thank you for the insights! I understand the ego, the department goals,
and timelines. Do you mean the correct testing processes and setups are available/followed but the test findings are manipulated/ignored in favor of the goals and egos?

Quote:
Originally Posted by arjab View Post
Not all OEM's can do this. This requires a fine understanding and balancing act between OEM brand positioning in selling country, thorough understanding of selling country minimum norms and a deep understanding of customer's minimum "perceived quality " threshold in the selling country.
What happens when the OEM tries to move across segments or change its positioning?
Quote:
To summarise, aggregate testing and it's optimisation down to its last thread, nut , bolt , temperature etc is a black art. Once an OEM masters it, it's truly in a league of its own.
Makes sense to me. Maybe that's why we see a lot of parts being reused across models/variants (Ex: power window switches and power mirror control on Maruti cars). If that part has passed testing once, the OEM simply plugs it into all its models without any retesting!

Some more queries from my end after going through some of the other threads on Team BHP:
BS6 Diesel engines

Recently, Hyundai and Tata have announced BS6 diesel engines for their new and existing models. But these diesel variants are not available in the market. As speculated, the BS6 engines might not be able to run properly on BS4 fuel and hence, OEMs will sell the cars when the fuel is available. All of this makes sense. But what if OMCs don't provide BS6 fuel on time? How does a consumer validate the fuel quality? How much tolerance is built in the fuel system by the OEMs to handle such scenarios?

If OEM tested its engine on special BS6 fuel which isn't available yet and launched a car, shouldn't the OEM be blamed here? And of course, the OMCs for not providing the quality fuel!

In the new BS6 compliant diesel engines, the exhaust system requires the car to be driven frequently at higher RPM for extended periods. If someone is buying a car for city use, the user WON'T be able to meet the above requirement on a regular basis. Shouldn't the OEMs and the sales team should inform the buyers of the limitations of their models before making a sale! And if it isn't a requirement, then the OEMs should test few mules exclusively for city usage over a significant period of time.

Last edited by ashis89 : 10th February 2020 at 15:48. Reason: removing video URL
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Old 12th February 2020, 14:38   #12
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Default Re: Testing standards followed by OEMs - How are the prototypes tested?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ashis89 View Post

Thank you for the insights! I understand the ego, the department goals,
and timelines. Do you mean the correct testing processes and setups are available/followed but the test findings are manipulated/ignored in favor of the goals and egos?

Yes correct test procedures and setups are available, either with OEM or with suppliers or with govt test agencies like ARAI, VRDE, or private test labs. Test procedures and passing criteria keeps evolving as more and more data is analyzed. The homologation tests are bit difficult to bypass cause they are driven by CMVR rules, but internal durability and quality standards are kinda flexible.

As I said, "risk assessment" is a neat little statistical tool which can give you different answers based on the "impact and probability" that one assigns to a particular risk/defect.

See, the time-cost-quality is a tricky matrix to unravel, particularly when we expect Japanese/German quality in Chinese cost. So what we end up getting is an Indian product, which isn't essentially bad, but it is what it is.

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Old 12th February 2020, 14:58   #13
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Default Re: Testing standards followed by OEMs - How are the prototypes tested?

I will give you an example how homologation tests are also insufficient to dictate a good product.

Remember the KUV100 with a middle seat in front row? Now it is another thing that the particular variant did not appeal to the customer and rightly so, but the fact that such a passenger seat was designed and a two point seat belt linkage was approved by the AIS standard is appalling to say the least.

Read this (https://hmr.araiindia.com/Control/AI...%20AIS-015.PDF) when you are free, but here is the paragraph that is of concern:

[FONT=&quot]4.3[/FONT]- Minimum Number of Belt Anchorages To Be Provided
[FONT=&quot]4.3.1[/FONT]- For the front seats of vehicles in category M and category N, two lower belt anchorage and one upper belt anchorage shall be provided. However, for front central seats, two lower belt anchorages shall be considered sufficient where the wind screen is located outside the reference zone defined in para 3.27.

Now on what basis does this line come to be in effect is something that we need to ponder over. Please note that this was not an issue in the Ambassador/Padmini era, but we are a good 20 years into the new millennium.

There are few things to be considered;

1. There are many such loopholes (deliberate or by error) which manufacturers can use to design a product without failing the set standards.

2. Many standards have language that is not specific but open to interpretation.

3. Given either of the drawback, it is for the OEM's ethic or conscience to design and manufacture what is "right".

So you see, this is how it is. Technology is not an issue, mindset is.

Last edited by Aditya2703 : 12th February 2020 at 15:01.
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