Blog: Dave LeggettBuddy, can you paradigm?

Dave Leggett | 26 October 2005

I met up with just-auto contributor Mark Bursa for lunch yesterday. One thing that gives Mark an interesting perspective on the auto industry is his involvement with the aircraft industry also (for example, he writes for Flight magazine). Wide ranging topics to chat about, you could say.

Discussions of the latest developments concerning the Chinese domestic auto industry or the condition of Dacia’s Romanian factory are prone to be interspersed with an off the cuff appraisal of Boeing’s business strategy, or a lament over the demise of Concorde (okay, as well as the football, seeing Joy Division live in 1980, or the local government madness inherent in deciding to phase out London’s Routemaster double-decker buses).

One area where the differences between the auto and aero industries show up is in attitudes to new product. Mr B said that the US Air Force's B-52 bombers are not due to be de-commissioned till 2040 or thereabouts (not bad for planes that first flew in the 1950s). Aircraft are frequently revamped to extend their working lives, major components replaced – especially military aircraft. It is not so often that a basic aircraft design can be radically improved upon (if it carries a certain payload and is aerodynamic, what’s to change?).

Could there be a place for a car that is basically a shell or platform (not in the industry-specific sense of that word) so that major components can easily be upgraded through a long lifecycle? A bit like upgrading the hard drive on your PC. Well, it’s an interesting subject for an academic thesis perhaps, but we agreed that the auto industry seems way too keen on current marketing and manufacturing modes to do anything that radical.

I was reminded again though of the AT Kearney Indego project. Maybe there is potential to do something like that, but I suspect that it would have to be as part of a broader convention-busting initiative. Would be a brave move.


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