In this video, Rick Spina, the executive chief engineer of crossovers at GM discusses how his team shaved 300 pounds from the Buick Enclave.
Challenge your engineers
Put money on it. For example, set a metric that says saving x weight is worth y dollars. That lets engineers pursue strategies that may be more expensive knowing that it is of value to the overall vehicle.
“Challenge a good engineer to come up with a better mousetrap … they’ll start doing it.”
The right material for the job
Spina talks about using traditional steel for the outside of the body because of its great formability (ability to take on the precise shape designers call for) and using high strength steel which is harder to manufacture but can be used for weight reduction in areas that can’t be seen. Principle 3 – Local Quality
This also applies to structures like pillars or columns (the metal surrounding the windows connected to the roofline). A large vehicle is spacious but can be heavy and move a lot of air when driven. Thin pillars and columns give high visibility and a sense of spaciousness to a vehicle without increasing its overall size. To accomplish thin pillars and columns, engineers can select better but more expensive materials.
Spina spoke briefly about active aero in the interview. This refers to systems that can be deployed to reduce drag or improve stability and cooling of engine and brake components.
For example, the 2015 Ford Mustang powered by its four-cylinder turbo engine will be equipped with active grille shutters. This is an important improvement because when pressed turbos require a lot of cooling, but the grille to provide this cooling creates drag. When driving moderately, or in cold air, closing the shutter allows the car to slip through the air more easily.
Active aero is used at the high end of the automotive market as well. The Ferrari LaFerrari has an active rear wing that is deployed when braking to create drag while control surfaces at the rear diffuser are also deployed to increase downforce, holding the car tight to the road for better traction. Principle 15 – Dynamics
Spina described the process of differentiation in product planning. In come cases allowing the customer to choose a la carte is effective. In the case of the Buick Enclave, they have positioned the fully loaded Avenir as a focus of their marketing efforts.
Buick distinguishes itself from related models in other GM divisions in part by its focus on “quiet tuning”, including thicker glass and carpeting, more sound deadening material, different suspension tuning, all to create a more hushed, comfortable experience Buick buyers prefer.
“I want to make sure I’m not disappointing anybody,” Spina says, when describing the process of equipping a Chevy like an Equinox or Traverse. In other words, it shouldn’t feel like a penalty box even if it is a value brand. On the other hand, creating a Cadillac calls for “exciting and delighting” because the higher cost requires it. Principle 1 – Segmentation