The constant media squabble over C-NCAP (China New Car Assessment Program) doesn’t annoy Mr Zhao Hang at all. As the Chief Director of China Automotive Technology Research Centre (CATARC), Zhao has paid a great deal of efforts to develop this program, a vehicle crash test known as “Chinese new car safety evaluation standard”. “Safety, environmental friendliness and energy saving, we need to have them all,” he said.
Big Brother of the automotive industry
CATARC was originally a research institute directly belonged to government departments, but now it has become a state-owned enterprise to make its own decisions. Apart from assisting in setting automotive industry policies, CATARC also conducts research in a few core automotive technologies, such as partnering with Tianjin FAW Xiali Motor, Hafei Automobile Group and Yunnan Hongta Group to develop alternative energy cars.
“For every aspect of China’s automotive industry, we all have a corresponding service institution. This includes pre-production tasks such as project establishment, factory site selection and factory construction planning, and production related processes such as auto products, standards, information, testing, certification, quality system establishment and staff training. We also get involved in market establishment, second-hand car market, automotive finance, car rental and vehicle scrap recycling,” said Zhao.
Although CATARC has such a wide-ranging function, most people currently are interested in its C-NCAP crash test. This controversial test was launched two years ago, and there have been many supporters as well as critics. Controversy is actually what Zhao has hoped for, and he even doesn’t mind posting negative media comments onto CATARC’s official website. The fact that many automotive companies are interested in C-NCAP and asking for trial tests, has demonstrated that C-NCAP results do have some market merit.
NCAP, or New Car Assessment Program, originated from the US in 1
970s, and it became further recognised in developed countries such as Japan, Europe and Australia in the 90s. a common feature of NCAP is that all the test cars have to be bought from the market, ie, assessable by ordinary consumers. It is an independent test for the benefit of consumers, without the intervention from automotive producers.
“The automotive industry in China is big, but few people really understand cars. Common criteria such as engine displacement, inside space and door numbers don’t really matter, what’s important is how safe when you are sitting in the car.” Zhao suggested that the creation of C-NCAP is to provide star ratings on safety, so that there can be a standard for consumers to choose cars. The chief purpose of conducting C-NCAP tests is to prompt vehicle producers to upgrade their technologies and improve car safety.
“C-NCAP is a new car assessment program, not just a new car SAFETY assessment program. We do have to go through crash tests initially, but then we add up other results to establish a systematic evaluation standard for new cars, including safety, displacement and oil consumption tests.” Zhao said that as China is a large energy user with insufficient energy supply, and for the environmental consideration as well, it is necessary to conduct displacement and oil consumption tests in the Program.
C-NCAP can become a guideline for Chinese automotive manufacturers, said Zhao. “Many manufacturers are now designing products for the next 5 or 10 years by referring to C-NCAP. For example, once fuel consumption limits of passenger cars are given, product designers have to follow these limits. In addition, C-NCAP’s analytical results, which are based on existing road and traffic accident statistics, will also serve for future standards setting, so this could also be guidance for manufacturers.”
A cooperative deal with PICC (People’s Insurance Company of China), China’s largest property insurer, was another successful initiative by CATARC. Last year, a vehicle safety crash test laboratory sponsored by PICC was opened, and PICC had also provided US$2 million to C-NCAP as crash test funds. For an independent assessment institution like CATARC, its cooperation partners have to be without vested interests, so the country’s number 1 insurer could be an ideal partner.
Despite being an incorporated entity, CATARC is not really run like a company, as many of its projects are non-for-profit in nature. At the same time it still has to pay for its own operating expenses. The government has set a limit on CATARC’s profits, whose excessive components have to be retained for future projects or public causes. So the cooperation with PICC did give CATARC some funding relief.
What kind of vehicle certification system does China need?
Zhao said that there are significant differences between China’s certification system and those internationally, in terms of methodologies and organisational management. “China has not yet had a truly formal certification system. The existing rules can only be called ‘access system’, which only determines whether a particular car model is allowed to enter the market. While in developed countries, government certifications are built around the three major criteria, namely safety, environmental friendliness and energy saving.”
Take the example of safety. China has more than 100,000 traffic death tolls and about 1 million injuries. There are only about 200 Chinese cities with more than 1 million population each, so the casualty number is equivalent to eliminating a medium Chinese city every year. Therefore it is an urgent task for regulators to solve vehicle safety problems and improve auto product qualities.
CATARC plans and drafts national vehicle standards in China. Zhao suggested that China do have good and enough standards, but not enough when it comes to execution. And there are rules to follow, but not followed strictly. “Market competition cannot be in the absence of monitoring. Low price competition has now become a major problem in China’s automotive industry, as many manufacturers try to reduce costs by jerry-building. Such vicious competition is harmful to the industry. Many vehicle models can pass quality certification when they are in the factory, but not the case when they go to the outside market. If a certified product is not the one sold to consumers, what’s the use of certification?” said Zhao.
“Therefore, it is not enough for the automotive industry to just have an access system, and too many certification programs will not be helpful, either. We need to strictly monitor basic aspects, such as vehicle safety, environmental friendliness and energy saving, but leave other tasks to the market and consumers. This could be a really effective and realistic method for the industry,” Zhao concluded.
Precision metal stampings are a critical component of so many products. Automotive components, medical devices, electronic parts – all contain metal stampings. For the part or the device to function properly, the stamping needs to be free of defects and of perfect quality.
We continue our metal stamping quality article series with a discussion on APQP.
Automotive industry refuses to take chances with precision metal stamping quality.
Poor quality is not an option with the automotive industry. That’s why the ‘Big Three’ (Ford, GM, and Chrysler) created Advanced Product Quality Planning, better known as APQP.
So what is APQP? Technically, “it’s a guide in the development process and also a standard way to share results between suppliers and automotive companies.” More simply put, it’s a way of making sure the automotive companies are involved in every step of the development and launch process with their suppliers – to ensure nothing goes wrong. Why? Ultimately, to ensure the ‘Big Three’s’ customers are satisfied with their automobiles.
APQP is typically deployed in 5 concurrent and collaborative phases:
Plan and Define Program
Product Design and Development
Process Design and Development
Product and Process Validation
Launch, Feedback, Assessment, and Corrective Action
Some of the questions that can be addressed through the APQP process are:
Can the product/process be error proofed?
Can the product/process achieve a higher level of capability through tolerance design and/or process variation reduction?
What controls must be developed to ensure that defects cannot reach a customer?
The APQP process actually monitors 23 topics before production is even started. Topics like design robustness, design testing, quality inspection standards, product packaging, and more.
Metal stamping companies need to be prepared.
There are a lot of suppliers wanting automotive business. Automotive manufacturers and the companies that represent them can demand that their suppliers abide by APQP processes.
And that requirement certainly applies to metal stamping companies as well. Automotive suppliers need to ensure the metal stamping companies they do business with are committed to APQP and should insist they:
Establish and continually monitor company-wide APQP processes
Utilize APQP tools such as Failure Mode Effect Analysis (FMEA) to ensure quality
Utilize advanced technology to verify stamping quality, thicknesses, and dimensions (sensors and gauges)
Implement sophisticated quality control plans and tools to ensure consistency and zero defect parts (i.e. Statistical Process Control (SPC)
Adhere to the Production Part Approval Process (PPAP)
With these controls in place, metal stamping companies can do their part to ensure the automotive manufacturers achieve their ultimate goal of customer satisfaction.
Today, the mechanical industry relies mostly on sophisticated automotive and diagnostic equipments. Alignment machines, computer diagnostic stations etc are indispensable in repairing machines. Since these repair facilities are high-priced, automotive and diagnostic equipment financing has assumed greater importance today. Those seeking automotive and diagnostic equipments with reliable financing companies which provide equipments at great terms can certainly do a lot good to their business.
Automotive equipments are of a specialized nature and at times facilitate only a single repair. Therefore it is essential to keep a set of such equipments in order to provide the repairing service without any interruption. At times, the automotive equipment set may be costlier than a vehicle. This is the reason for why people are going for automotive equipment financing.
There are several categories of automotive and diagnostic equipment financing which include air compressor financing, welder financing, automotive hand tool financing, brake lathe financing and so on. You can apply for any loan by submitting a loan application to the financing company. One can avail online application forms for getting automotive and diagnostic equipment financing, courtesy the internet.
Diagnostic equipments are much sophisticated owing to which modern automobiles rely mainly on them. The computer diagnostic systems help in many repair functions and also help in communicating with specific automotive diagnostic equipment. There are various diagnostic equipments available, which are highly useful in acquiring a complete report of the vehicle which also includes the areas that need repair. The diagnostic equipments due to their sophisticated nature are high-priced. Again constant changes in computer technology also call for upgradation in automatic diagnostic equipment. Therefore automotive and diagnostic equipment financing can be acquired from any reliable financing company that does call for long procedures. The financing company should also be ready to clear the loan to the qualified automotive companies without any problems.
There are various types of loans available for automotive and diagnostic equipment. For instance, Dynamometer financing helps you to buy a dynamometer that is used to measure the rotational speed and torque of the engine. This machine is very expensive and so if you wish to own such equipment, you need to go for financing.
Before going for automotive and diagnostic equipment financing, you should pursue a research on the financing companies that have branches near your locality. Ensure that the company has been in existence for at least a decade. Also verify the interest rates and mode of payment. You need to confirm whether you can get the loan without waiting for so many days.
There are some reliable financing companies that provide various types of loans for getting automotive and diagnostic equipment. Such companies have simple application procedures and they provide fast approval of loan. Therefore you can buy the equipments at any time you need. This is of course vital for smooth running of your company.
You can simply fill the online application form provided by the financing company and can get fast approval provided the information is true. Therefore it is possible for any company to buy the expensive automotive and diagnostic equipment today.
The Automotive Climate In 2011
Despite the recession, the automotive sector has been showing signs of growth over the last 6 months. Thanks to increased export to countries such as China, UK car production has been positive.
UK car sales have remained steady throughout 2011 as the UK market continues to struggle with the recession that shows no signs of lifting. Thanks for finance, expensive cars are made affordable to people that cannot afford a one off payment, but small monthly payments over 2-3 years.
Automotive Marketing In 2011
By far the best form of marketing has to be advertising on TV, many of the leading car companies (Peugeot, Audi, Toyota etc.) use TV advertising to sow the seed of having a new car.
Commercial adverts are the most popular, as car companies can catch people in-between programs and advertise new models of cars.
Program sponsorship is becoming more popular (ITV drama, Firm4, Gold comedy etc.) as the cars are showcased before shows begin and at the end before the adverts (very often with a voice over).
Financial services and car companies are the main business sectors that use TV advertising in the UK in 2011.
Car businesses use a wide variety of visual advertising techniques to showcase the new models coming out in 2011/12 due to visual advertising working so well for encouraging the buying signals.
Billboard advertising works well as it can be targeted to specific ares of the country (maybe that have historically had good sales of new cars) or areas of affluence (pockets of the UK where the more wealthy live).
Digital media is often used by car businesses (such as in the underground, at train stations, airports etc.) again because the visual image of a new car will encourage the buying process.
Car companies are one of the main kinds of businesses to sponsor sports events (football, cricket, snooker etc.) due to the captive audience, most people watching the sports event will consider buying a new car at some point.
Although sponsorship advertising is very expensive, it is still a great way to generate brand awareness.