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Manufacturing Complexity: Does BMW’s Mini Problem Raise Bigger Questions?

Posted By Paul Tate, January 17, 2012 at 7:32 AM, in Category: Factories of the Future

First Toyota, then Honda, India’s Tata Nano, Ford SUVs and vans, even high-end Ferrari sports cars – and now 235,000 BMW Minis are being recalled worldwide due to quality and safety problems with some of the top of the range Mini Cooper vehicles.

The last few years have seen a host of high-profile recalls among the world’s leading auto companies. So what’s happening to the usually high quality control standards in the global auto industry?

In the Mini’s case, the suspected problem is a fault in the electric water pump that cools the turbo charger, which in some cases could create a fire risk in electronic circuit boards, says the German company.

It was an issue with the brakes for Toyota; it was output shaft problems and brake fluid leaks with Ford; it was an innovative resin coating under the wheel arches for Ferrari.

Certainly for the consumer, once any potential fault is spotted, precautionary measures that may prevent failure, accident or injury are definitely a good thing. So should we expect auto recalls like this to become more common in the future? If so, why?

Is it because public safety standards are now more stringent than ever before and companies are legally obliged to respond?

Is it because the car companies themselves feel they must be more visibly accountable and proactive to maintain brand value and customer loyalty in a highly competitive marketplace?

Or is it that innovative new products, and the production processes that create them, are becoming so complex that it’s increasingly difficult for manufacturers’ quality and testing procedures to keep up these days?

Recalls are expensive. What production and quality strategies do you think could prevent more of them for the auto industry in the future?

Written by Paul Tate

Paul Tate is Research Director and Executive Editor with Frost & Sullivan's Manufacturing Leadership Council. He also directs the Manufacturing Leadership Council's Board of Governors, the Council's annual Critical Issues Agenda, and the Manufacturing Leadership Research Panel. Follow us on Twitter: @MfgExecutive


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