They Do That? Enthusiasts Aren't The Only Ones Interested in Finding
Mike Levine Posted:
01-28-08 00:41 PT
© 2008 PickupTruck.com
and future buyers aren't the only ones who get excited waiting to find
out what's changed in the newest trucks that debut at major industry
events, like the North
American International Auto Show. Competing
manufacturers are just as anxious to find out too.
everyday Joes who are locked out of auto shows during media and industry
preview days, engineering and product planning staff
from almost every manufacturer make their rounds visiting vehicle
display stands immediately after the unveilings.
closest the engineers and product planners will get to the trucks until
they go on sale six to twelve months later - when they can be purchased,
torn down, and reverse-engineered at vehicle assessment and benchmark
centers - so the most is made from the opportunity.
it's easy to tell the two staff apart.
tend to travel in small teams of two or three. They carry laptop computers,
notepads, rulers, and digital cameras and dress comfortably. They'll
scurry around a vehicle examining it from every angle, often getting
on their hands and knees or backs to crawl underneath, so they can
see major design changes with their own eyes. They measure individual
parts and major dimensional specs, like bed height and box length.
New technologies and equipment, like the 2009 Dodge Ram's RamBox side
saddle storage and coil-over rear suspension, get special attention.
Up to 15 minutes can be spent examining new parts and features, to
see how they work and what they feel like.
In the photo
at the top of the page, two Toyota engineers surveyed a 2009 Dodge
Ram 1500 for almost 20-minutes while they recorded their observations.
And swarms of engineers kept coming back to Ford's amazing 2009 F-150
cutaway (above) that clearly labeled and highlighted structural
and component changes in the new pickup.
planners usually wear business suits and move in packs of two to ten people,
often surrounding an alpha executive as they tour the floor. They tend
to be louder and much more conversational than engineers. As they
walk and stop, they freely engage in chit chat with the staff stationed
at a truck's display stand. They'll ask questions about what kinds
of changes were made, why, and what were the major challenges. They
also congratulate competitors on notable revisions or things
they think are worthy of recognition.
In the photo
below, Ford truck and SUV marketing
manager Mike Crowley (fourth from left) walked Volkswagen Chairman
Ferdinand Piech (second from left) and Volkswagen of America CEO Stefan
Jacoby (third from left) around display tables that highlighted and
explained the 2009 F-150's interior changes and new powertrain components.
The VW entourage
surrounding Messrs. Piech and Jacoby had a headcount of ten suits.
to do with engineers, since they easily fade into the crowds during
the auto shows, but with well-known executives, like Mr. Piech, it's
easy to discern patterns as they move from showcase to showcase. If
they look closely at one manufacturer's truck and quickly move on to
another manufacturer's pickup, that can be an indication they've got
something in the pipeline and they want to make sure it's going to
hit where the newest trucks are landing or ahead of them.
in 1999, when Mr. Piech toured GM's and
Ford's stands closely and then Volkswagen brought its Advanced
Activity Concept to Detroit the next
year. The AAC didn't turn into a production hauler but there are rumors
VW is on the pickup truck planning path again.
with all the competitive intelligence that could be gathered during
the auto show, the manufacturers would be more guarded with who
has access to the display stands, but that's not the case. It's tolerated
because sooner or later their engineering and product planning staff
are going to be making the rounds too.