Whats Behind the Lead of Asian Automakers?

By: Jennifer Dylan


Toyota and Honda are etching their well-deserved triumph in the history of the automobile industry. These automakers continue to put their best foot forward as their mighty rivals experience the bumps along the way. According to a recently conducted study aimed to analyze the stability and performance of automakers, one factor that is advantageous to Asian automakers is their workflow.

Several have controlled models to make manufacturing simple and easy. On the other hand, American car makers manufacture a wide-variety of auto parts like side mirrors. This fact has contributed to boost the workflow and performance of Asian automakers.

GM and Ford are busy working on massive plant closures and job reductions to reinstate their business standing. However, experts are saying that they are not moving fast to cope with their ailing sales. "GM and Ford are doing a tremendous amount of work, but they don't have 25 more years to execute [their restructuring plans]," says Laurie Felax, Harbour-Felax Group president. "So I think the study's findings show they are moving in the right direction, but they need to move faster."

Felax further noted, "All three of the big U.S. automakers are working on this. The Japanese started doing it much sooner and are seeing the benefits. U.S. automakers are at a different level of maturity and execution and they are quite far behind the curve. And when it comes to vacations and holidays, Big Three workers get more through their unions than the Japanese, and they get more relief time. A GM worker gets 46 minutes off each day, while a Toyota worker gets 30 minutes. So GM has to hire more people to get the same volume as Toyota. And when it comes to work rules, a Toyota worker can do almost anything to a car, while at GM there are seven or eight different work classifications, and certain workers can't touch certain parts of a car."

"GM is the best positioned of all the three U.S.-based carmakers to take advantage of component sharing. The Pontiac Solstice and the Hummer SUV, for example, both use the same climate control system, while the Saturn Sky and the Chevy Cobalt use the same door handle," says Kevin Reale, research director for AMR Research.

"So what's interesting from the GM perspective is they are taking things that are visible to the customer and reusing them," says Reale. "Right now, all of the Big Three need to do a better job of this. Chrysler is also moving down this path and Ford has the biggest opportunity to accelerate this process. They have been doing a good job with the Ford brand, but now they need to extend this to other brands, like Volvo and Jaguar."

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