We often get asked about the new-vehicle engineering we do for global carmakers and official new-vehicle importers.
Here’s an ENGINEERING case study.
Developing a special new-model variant
The global automaker in this case study is a long-standing company. It’s a brand that enjoys sustained success in various new-vehicle segments, especially high-performance cars, SUVs (sport utility vehicles) and particular types of off-road 4×4 models.
“This is a great company to work with,” says Bernie Quinn, Engineering Director and Partner at Premcar. “They were well advanced with the development of an all-new model when they contacted us about it. It was a multi-year project which included an all-new platform. It was a very big program.”
Having already gone through some of its largest project gateways, it emerged the company had the chance to capture a significant revenue opportunity with this new-model program. Securing it meant adding a niche version to the core vehicle they were developing.
Time wasn’t on their side
Given this new model’s scheduled launch and market release dates, this was going to be difficult.
“The primary new-car development team was far advanced in the program. They didn’t have the time or resources to add this extra engineering project to their existing schedule.”
Making matters difficult was the fact the development team had made an internal commitment they could accommodate this extra program work. But it quickly became evident they simply didn’t have the bandwidth or the agility to realize this niche model variant inside the remaining time and budget.
“The new-car market is dynamic,” says Quinn “It can change faster than many people might think. This is especially the case when a major new model has been in development for some years.
“Making major changes ‘on the fly’ often isn’t possible. Budgets for these new-model programs might run to many hundreds of millions of dollars, and schedules can run beyond five years, but major changes can blow these constraints apart like a hand grenade.
“Simply put, the clock was ticking on the launch of this high-profile new model. The company’s Board of Management wanted this additional model variant in their line-up and they wanted to use it to boost its brand’s standing in this competitive segment,” said Quinn.
The project was bigger than first indicated
There were some serious challenges with this extra-vehicle project. The development team knew this. Before engaging Premcar, they had done a high-level feasibility study. They quickly found a series of roadblocks, such as the need to re-develop quite a number of key components from scratch. They got started anyway. But they immediately found adding this niche model variant was adversely affecting the entire vehicle development program.
That’s when they realised they couldn’t do it internally, and needed help.
“One of this company’s many great qualities is its regimented approach to new-car development. They have strict systems and processes. They’re a massive operation and in this instance their ethos drove their decision to call in help.
The specific development team working on this vehicle contacted us via another part of the company for whom we had previously done a vehicle development project. They quickly saw the kind of work we did and things moved quickly,” said Quinn.
“There were some immediate obstacles that needed solving. For example, they needed us to operate with their people, tools and systems as if we were employees, not an external vendor.
“From the first Executive-level meeting with the leading platform engineer and various company leaders, it was clear they needed extra capabilities to create this niche new-model variant. They saw what we’d achieved previously and we were underway.”
Jumping into the project
Progress was immediate. Early on Premcar discovered the development team had made some big internal commitments to the company’s top management.
“That probably explained the relief we saw on the team’s faces when our results started appearing. They were pleased to see our first intensive detail work, like specialised computer-aided designs and simulations, along with manufacturing the first prototype components.”
Premcar’s first big breakthrough came when it was clear the team trusted them as a vital resource.
“Because this car was destined to be sold in many overseas markets, adding this extra model variant to the program attracted the critical eyes of the company’s top management. Before we were officially engaged on this program, these executives were on-site at various testing venues the moment they heard of any possible delays.
“They were sensitive to anything going wrong. Any work relating to a new-vehicle platform that’s going to underpin more than 250,000 cars per year cannot carry errors to the production line.”
“But the client was relieved to learn we operate like an OEM carmaker, just like them,” said Quinn. “They saw the robustness of our regimented processes and systems, and they saw we could advance their project quickly, partly because of our agility.”
Premcar’s approach was quick to earn results
“We were able to advance this niche-model project to the point where it caught up with the remainder of the total program.”
Premcar achieved a lot of other breakthroughs during this program.
“Building the first running prototype involved a lot of heavy and detailed fabrication,” Quinn says. “Witnessing the reactions of the client’s senior engineering teams after driving it was a great moment.
“Also, watching the project team change their attitude towards this project was a reward. It went from being “too hard” to one that quickly got results. It boosted the entire team’s confidence.
“It was especially gratifying to hear one of the top executives say, “This project’s got a good chance of flying” shortly after we started.”
The biggest results were in the showroom
The biggest and most exciting results, however, came when the program was finished and the car was released for sale.
“This niche model variant we engineered and developed was planned to have a customer take-up of just over 5%. At this rate all costs were covered and the program was profitable. But this niche model variant proved so popular it quickly comprised roughly 50% of total sales. It’s since stayed in that vicinity. Watching that happen was deeply rewarding for everyone at Premcar.”
This project was something of a turning point for this new-car development team.
“They achieved a major revenue opportunity that, at one point, they came close to missing,” Quinn says. “They initially believed adding it to their program was too difficult and costly, driven primarily by how advanced they were with their existing new-vehicle program.
“Secondly, it put Premcar in their new-vehicle development toolbox. We’ve since gone on to deliver other niche model variants.
“Calling on us is now a regular part of their vehicle development process.
“This automaker almost missed out on one of their most popular and successful niche model variants. But by trusting us to act as a third arm in their multi-year program, they achieved far more than they expected.”
About Premcar – Premcar Pty Ltd is a leading Australian vehicle engineering business that specialises in the automotive, defence and aerospace industries. For more than 25 years, global car-makers have made Premcar their go-to partner for the complete design, engineering and manufacture of niche-model new cars, full-scale new-vehicle development programs, and electric vehicle (EV) conversions and manufacturing. As the name behind more than 200,000 new cars and 55,000 new-vehicle engines, Premcar’s body of work is extensive and has delivered technical and sales success for major car brands from Europe, the USA, Japan, China and Australia. Visit premcar.au.
Follow Premcar on Instagram – @premcaraustralia
Follow Premcar on LinkedIn – @Premcar Pty Ltd