When you go to purchase a car off the lot have you ever thought of what it takes for each car to get there? You may not be surprised to hear that cars do not spring all shiny and dew-studded from beneath lily pads, ready to hit the road. In fact, the car-creation odyssey makes NASA’s Journey to Mars program seem like a Caribbean luxury cruise. While we frequently address elements of the design and development process on this page, this is the first time we’ve presented the entire start-to-finish plan; this year’s 10 Best celebration seemed like the perfect time and place to do so. One domestic and one import manufacturer—both requesting anonymity for competitive reasons—helped compile this guide to how cars are made.
We gathered related tasks under five headings.
The time required is the most interesting and secretive part of a car’s gestation; a crash program to replace a dead-on-its-wheels product may take only half the time invested in a normal, full-redesign effort.
In our illustrations, the clock begins when the generals gather to spur their troops to action. The end is when the new model reaches showrooms. On average, the entire process takes 72 months. There’s overlap to save time, as revealed by the start and finish months listed in each of the five category headings. After-sale activities—including service issues, continuous improvement, and midlife face lifts—are not included in this account. That’s for another 10Best.
Research market, including in-house and field investigations, to identify the role of this product and its components in the global portfolio; define separation from similar models sold by sister brands
Identify special features, advantages, and potential world, U.S., or segment firsts
Define competitive set, target customers; set curb-weight, fuel-economy, and performance goals
Budget, funding, pricing, investment considerations
Computer-aided-engineering (CAE) analysis
Customer, press, analyst clinics