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back to article Tesla firms hot bottoms: TITANIUM armor now bolted to Model S e-cars

Tesla is adding a three-level shield of aluminum and titanium to the underside of its Model S e-car to eliminate the possibility of battery blazes and placate US safety authorities. In separate accidents, two of the electric rides burst into flames shortly after running over debris in the road: in each case, whatever they hit …

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Anonymous Coward

Historical

"With a track record of zero deaths or serious, permanent injuries since our vehicles went into production six years ago, there is no safer car on the road than a Tesla."

I'm considering starting a rival car company called Edison which makes inferior electric cars. Then I'll spend my time bad-mouthing the competition in the press and maybe running over a few animals with a Tesla car. Somehow it just seems like something that someone might do.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Historical

With a track record of zero deaths or serious, permanent injuries since our vehicles went into production six years ago, there is no safer car on the road than a Tesla.

Cynics would observer that Tesla marketing is casually skipping over the fact that they were one of the few brands that doesn't need an accident to endanger its owner - it catches fire all by itself..

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Re: Historical

"one of the few brands that doesn't need an accident to endanger its owner - it catches fire all by itself.."

Car fires are pretty common. It's incorrect to claim that Tesla is "one of the few brands" that have been afflicted by this issue. In the decade I've lived in my street, three neighbours have lost cars to fire - a Ford and a Citroen that caught fire in use, and a Volvo that caught fire parked on the street at night. That was apparently down to damaged insulation on a headlight 12v wire that made a circuit with the bodywork large enough to create sufficient heat to ignite the bonnet soundproofing.

What none of those three cars did was raise an alarm to the occupants that an incident had occurred and that evacuation should occur.

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Re: Historical

That, and Porsche, one of the best regarded manufacturers in the world, recently had to pull their 991-style 911 GT3 RSs because the conrods exit the crankcase and set fire to the car by throwing oil on the exhausts.

From a technical standpoint, petrol engined cars are more vulnerable to 'unexpected fire' than electric ones, primarily because while electric cars have more electric, electric is a damned site easier to control than fairly weighty pieces of metal being reciprocated at anything up to 9000 times a minute, and being lubricated by potentially flammable fluids. And that's before you get to the gallons of fluid specifically chosen for it's properties to combust under pressure, or when subjected to pressure and an outside ignition source, that are stored in either the front or the rear of the vehicle in a perfect spot to be crushed, spilled and ignited in the event of an accident.

I'd still rather have a 991 GT3 RS than a Tesla anything at the moment, but to claim that electric cars are inherently unsafe because they are electric shows a staggering lack of physics and chemistry knowledge.

After all, pretty much every appliance in your house is electric, and I bet you sleep at night fine with all those potential fire hazards around you....

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Re: Historical

"fairly weighty pieces of metal being reciprocated at anything up to 9000 times a minute"

Up to 18,000 times a minute: A piston has both an up and a down stroke for each revolution of the crankshaft.

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Re: Historical

Nice plan AC. Edison famously killed an elephant but I think you might usefully update that with a giraffe.

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Re: Historical

Excellent point Ledswinger - I wasn't thinking about it that deeply!

That said, I don't dislike petrol cars - in fact I love them. My ratty, old, near 130,000 mile Puma 1.7 still pulls all the way to the rev limiter in second, third and fourth with aplomb, which is staggering when you think of the abuse those components must be taking.

But it's still more likely to catch fire than if it had a properly isolated electric motor and battery pack under the bonnet - that's just plain old risk assessment right there, nothing fancy!

And on that note, the fact that petrol cars don't catch fire all the fucking time is another good example of why engineering rocks.

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Re: Historical

Catching fire after running over highway rubble and crashing at high speed into concrete walls is not exactly "by itself" (Three cases). One of the other two cases, at least sounds more likely to be a problem with the house wiring or outlet rather than the car and its associated equipment. The cause of the mid-February fire in Toronto seems as yet indeterminate, not known to be associated with damage.

So one unexplained fire, one probably an infrastructure problem not Tesla's responsibility, and three associated with severe mechanical damage.

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Re: Historical

Pumas was so underrated as a car, lovely thing to drive with just enough power.

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Re: Historical (Get a dictonary)

(of a part of a machine) Move backwards AND forwards in a straight line.

ie. "a reciprocating blade"

It's the cycles which are counted not the changes in direction.

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Re: Historical

The one video I did see of one of these Teslas catching fire was the one in Mexico. The dude crashed its way doing something near 200 km/h, went over a bridge, crashed through the railing, crashed down to the street, then plunged into a fountain or something like that before crashing yet again. Yet the driver managed to get out and run away from the scene before the car lit itself up. I'd like to see a regular car take that much abuse and not catch fire!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Historical (Get a dictonary)

Dictionaries are mainly produced by arts graduates, not engineers.

We talk of a 4-stroke engine, where each stroke corresponds to a 180 degree movement of the crankshaft. When I was in engine R&D, we used the terms "cycle", "revolution" and "stroke", all of which are different. Reciprocate in its original meaning really is not correct, any more than the term "reciprocal" meaning the inverse of a function really relates to reciprocate. So my feeling is that dictionaries are one thing, but custom and practice are another, and if someone wants to use "reciprocate" to mean "change direction once" rather than "change direction twice", that's up to them. In this case the meaning was perfectly clear. The dictionary avoids making a decision.

Does the engine throw a rod on one stroke rather than the other? Despite having seen the aftermath of a 2000HP Diesel throwing a rod at full power (it caused an enquiry and changes in test practice) I'm not sure if there is any research on where it is most likely to happen. So whether, in a Porsche engine at full chat, each rod has 9000 or 18000 opportunities to throw a rod, I don't know. Just don't forget to multiple by 6, and then consider how unbelievably reliable piston engines are nowadays.

I'm glad I got that off my chest.

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Re: Historical

@Jonathan Donnelly - my one is a Millenium, so it's also a stonking yellow colour, with leather recaros.

Many a 'sports car' has been given a wake up call by my shonky little ford zipping past them on the exit of corners with an 'interesting' speed differential because they don't know how slow in, fast out works.

Tremendously flattering car - if you're looking at front wheel drive cars, as far as I'm aware pretty much the only thing better is the DC2 Integra Type R - which is generally regarded as the best front wheel drive car ever made.

Not a bad thing to be second to if you ask me....and not bad given that ten years previously, Ford were lambasted for making some of the worst cars on the market.

Steven R

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Facepalm

Re: Historical

Reciprocated: to move alternately back AND forward (or up AND down, if you prefer)

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Headmaster

Re: Historical

>>Up to 18,000 times a minute: A piston has both an up and a down stroke for each revolution of the crankshaft.

A single reciprocation includes both an up stroke and a down stroke which means 9,000 - (rather than 18,000 strokes).

You could (or course) claim that an "up", "down" followed by another "up" is an initial stroke followed by two reciprocations, however that would mean the "down" belongs to two different reciprocations which doesn't sit right with me, so I would say 9,000 is 9,000 reciprocations, rather than a single starting stroke followed by 17,999 shared reciprocations.

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Re: Historical

@Anon/troll: Three Teslas have caught fire. Two hit debris in the road, the other was a big multiple impact accident. NONE have caught fire on their own.

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Re: Historical

I think you're imaginary MR E would have more success with a TV ad campaign in which a soccer mom loads her infant children and the family dog into the DC Flyer (or whatever the thing will be called) and safely delivers everyone to school while the next-door neighbor loads the a similar crowd into a Tesla, drives over a small rock in the road as they exit their driveway and disappears in a ball of flames and corona discharge (which kills an innocent cat walking by).

But the idea is yours and a guddun. Well done for cracking a history book or two during your life, Mr/Ms AC.

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Re: Historical

Pumas are becoming very popular as cheap cars for road rallies and for competing in the Targa class of classic rallies. Great cars (but, as with most coupes, I can't actually get in one ...)

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Re: Historical

Upvote for that remark. Note to car manufacturers: 6ft6-ers want to drive coupes as well!

Tried the Puma when it first came out. Couldn't even sit down on the seat, couldn't get my head inside the car :-)

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Re: Historical

I'm a shade under 6ft, but I like to have the seat dropped all to the floor (in the Milly, it's an electric height adjuster, don't you know *puts in monocle*) and even then I can't H+T because my legs are too long and my knees foul the steering column.

Also, on a related 'not fitting' not, if you go back through my posts for a couple of years, you'll find one where I reference sitting in one at a dealership (just idle browsing) and determining that I'd have to lose weight to get one as the bucket seats were quite...tight.

Hey, guess what, turns out if you sit in them long enough (and corner hard enough) the seats bend to fit my fat arse. Huzzah!

Prices on Pumas have bottomed out - if you want a cheap, nippy car that handles fantastically and you don't need to lug wardrobes around (although I got two ten foot by three foot sheets of MDF in there today with the aid of some rope and a bit of luck - and a lack of cops to do me for having a shonky secured load, erk), snap one up while they are cheap and it's easy to sort the good ones from the bad, I say.

But please pay top dollar for Milleniums, I want values to go up ;-)

Steven R

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Re: Historical

Get a room you two

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Re: Historical

Just a quick note, I never thought typing that diatribe against morons would get 24 upvotes.

Kudos to the commentard community for their common sense. That bottle of wine I just necked has been drunkenly attributed to you all. You delicious people.

Steven R

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JDX
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Is driving over debris in the road fast enough force it through the bodywork common? It sounds like it would be dangerous in a petrol fuelled car too.

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Good question. At least it doesn't seem to have a problem with rear end collisions.

Any idea what tyres they use? :)

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Is driving over debris in the road fast enough force it through the bodywork common?

My father lost an oil pan when an over loaded scrap truck dropped a bunch of angle iron in his path. Another car had a piece of iron right through the door into the passenger seat. Could have been the gas tank.

There was also the Ford Pinto, I remember there was someone who parked one in the University lot who had put a danger sign off the back of an fuel tanker on his car.

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Holmes

That is why some people should not be driving these/any low slung cars.

No matter how safe a car may be....the REAL problem is stupid people behind the wheels.

Anyone following too closely to see debris in the road is 100% at fault. It's worse if they simply weren't paying attention to the road or driving too fast for the road conditions.

The driver is the one in control of the vehicle. There is no such thing as an accident. It's simply a collision that results from someone not paying attention or not driving defensively enough.

You can't prevent stupid people from obtaining drivers licenses. Until you take control of the vehicle away from the stupid people...there will always be a chance of a collision.

All you need to do is take notice of the drivers actions around you on the road.

~Best wishes on a safe drive home.

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re: It sounds like it would be dangerous

Yes! it happens frequently, though often unreported - this 6 kid fatality did make the news.

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too closely to see debris in the road is 100% at fault

An overly simplistic analysis of the problem, I feel. True, but not always the reason for a grounding out, at least, not in the USA.

"The driver is the one in control of the vehicle. There is no such thing as an accident."

This is pure cobblers. How do you drive defensively when someone else crosses the divider at speed and rams you head on? How do you drive defensively to prevent the lower front wishbone mounting point of the critically design-flawed TR6 chassis from breaking away from the rest of the structure due to metal fatigue and leaving you with three wheels on your wagon? (that last one is personal experience, the first ruined the lives and careers of a family I knew who were driving within the speed limit on the New York State Thruway when hit). How do you drive defensively when a truck travelling too fast loses it's cargo bindings and the load goes seriously airborne? (Happens several times a year on the LIE).

You sound like my dad - before he rear-ended someone and totaled my mum's car (which he tried to make my fault even though I wasn't in the car at the time 8oD) ending his thirty year clean driving record and his smug, snide digs over minor fender benders everyone else had had in the family. Now he has rather broader views on the subject.

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Anonymous Coward

But wait...

Elon Must claims that these fires are just "flukes".

I think he got the message loud and clear when NHTSA started an investigation, as they should have. Hopefully the additional armor will reduce road debris from smashing the batteries, but that doesn't mean all Tesla EV fires will be gone. They've had a number of incidents unrelated to road debris punching into the batteries. I suspect they'll have a lot more fires before the smoke settles.

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Re: But wait...

The NHSTA? Their biggest contribution to the world was giving Ralph Nader a platform to distract the general public from while everyone else went about their regular business. It makes the proles all warm and fuzzy when government agencies investigate something, but the appearance of doing something is really all the public generally gets. They seem satisfied with that.

This has nothing to do with Telsa automobiles, just the grand misconception the public has about what various agencies actually contribute. In case you haven't noticed, our government has displayed the worst understanding possible of anything technical since that Catholic guy was President. Do you know how much the NHSTA actually does to investigate things? Nothing.

Well, they do send nice forms, I suppose someone has to print the 85,000 duplicate forms they include with each nut and bolt they send you. See, they don't do anything technical because they have less than zero in-house expertise. They send jobs out to labs like ours, or those of our clients, then they give the test results to insurance companies and everybody flies out to Hawaii to discuss how much the insurance companies need to charge to 'reflect the risk associated with insuring the relevant parties'.

If you think an NHSTA 'investigation' is making you safer can I interest you in our roadside assistance program? We offer the same attention to report formatting and chart building as the NHSTA and we throw in a bicycle helmet (in your choice of baby shit green, or baby shit green) as well as one of our highly desirable 'Go Ahead. Shoot me. Complex manufacturing insurance liability forms make you invincible when they're populated correctly!' bumper stickers.

Alternatively you can do what everybody else does when the NHSTA investigators pop in to see if you're running low on forms. Tell them to fuck off and call your counsel. They can be reached at the number written on the envelope of the impound yard that now has the car you parked in my extra space. The NHSTA is like those European 'advertising police' that come when more than 1.32 people call about a TV commercial that showed too much cleavage. They're always buzzing around and the only reason anybody talks to them is to play hilarious practical jokes on the new guy. My favorite is to send the hard copy of reports on copy/scan resistant paper and include the raw data from the analysis equipment.

The best part is that they never even question it. They're all in waaay over their heads and there's no way in hell they're going to admit it by asking what the data on page 2739 means. Nobody takes the NHSTA seriously, you shouldn't either. Tesla automobiles may, or may not, turn out to be heaping piles of shit, but the NHSTA sure as fuck won't have anything to do with the final outcome of anything but insurance underwriting guidelines.

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Re: But wait...

What's it got to do with the New Hampshire Science Teachers Association?

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Re: But wait...

That, my friend, is the real question isn't it. Although it is difficult to definitively classify them, I believe your observation qualifies a fnord.

Normally, a high quality fnord would be visible only to those people who are exceptionally clever, exceptionally drunk or high or exceptionally stupid. You obviously aren't in the stupid category, because you not only noticed it, but you circumvented it and typed it out in its true form and managed to publish it as well.

You may very well be exceptionally clever, drunk or high, or some combination of those things, I wouldn't know. I say the following not to detract from your exceptionalness nor insult you; but I believe the reason you were able to recognize the fnord is because it was created by government agencies.

As I'm sure you're aware, anything more complex than not shitting in their shoes is beyond the scope of any government employees capabilities and their work will always, without fail, contain at least some component that is just wrong. Fucking broken. Good eye though!

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Should

have done the cost-benefit calculation Ford did with the pinto

Ahhh whats a few crispy drivers compared to the 20 cents moving the fuel tank forward 3 inches would cost?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Should

It is not Ford as a whole - some of the engineers working on the Pinto pointed it out.

It is Lee Yacoca in particular. His "Safety does not sell" analysis of the value of human life is still considered right and studied in MBA schools. As far as the products of those instititutions are concerned the only thing which has changed is price tag. Otherwise it is still the same spreadsheet as used in the Pinto times.

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Re: Should

If it makes any difference, the Pinto wasn't the only factor in the occasionally dangerous but always hilarious behavior of that little car. But before we get into that you need to recognize what you're dealing with, otherwise you're guaranteed to draw incorrect conclusions.

How many people do you think were killed by the issues with the Pinto fuel tank? There were 27 deaths caused by fire in Pinto crashes. One death in a case in Illinois was determined to be murder and the crash occurred on the way to dispose of the dead body. The murderer was also killed. There were quite a few serious burn injuries as well, but reporting of the era wasn't as robust as today. Should those people have been killed or seriously injured by those accidents? Ideally no, but transmission failures in those cars resulting in loss of vehicle control killed 27 people and caused far, far, far more serious injuries and disfigurement.

Deaths by fire resulting from automobile accidents killed about 300 people annually in the US during the years the Pinto was in production. The numbers are a bit worse today, with one in every six(ish) fires reported in the US being car fires caused by car wrecks. About 9% of all traffic fatalities in the US today are due to automobile fires. Neat huh! For more than 20 years after the Pinto had been out of production Volvo, Saab, Audi, VW, Honda and Renault vehicles each kill(ed) more people in fiery car crashes than the Pinto killed in fiery car wrecks during its entire production history.

Those are facts. Feel free to look them up. The Pinto was railroaded so hard that the Daimler group developed an internal strategy based on it to compete with Volvo in commercial vehicle sales in Europe. I've had doubts for almost 40 years that the Lee Iacocca who developed the Ford Mustang and the entire 'muscle car' era of automobiles was replaced by an alien clone from a race composed solely of used feminine hygiene products and the tears of children when he developed the minivan and spent millions of dollars fighting mandatory SRS in cars. He's a dick.

That being said, the Pinto was nothing more than a refinement of what we now call FUD and it was Ralph Nader and his anti-Corvair attention seeking campaign that really turned FUD into the practice we all know and love so much with everything IT. Nader's strategy of negative marketing and emotional manipulation has earned him a permanent spot along with Edison, Che Guevara, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Don Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney in my 'Hall of Dickheads and Moosedicks' that will be unveiled at my death along with the trust I've established that will allow the facility to remain open at least 300 years and donate $1M annually to the most despised causes of that years Dickhead or Moosedick of the year. Horrible people deserve recognition too you know.

But before you hop on the Pinto wagon (Ha!) do a bit of the same research you'd do if your MS rep was preaching anti-Linux FUD at you or the Apple douche at the Apple store with the anti-Android FUD. You, probably, know enough about your field to assess products on their own merits, do yourself a favor and do the same for other things before you start preaching about things you've obviously never even bothered to look into. It'll be a good experience for you and will probably help you in your career as well.

Incidentally, the biggest flaw with the Pinto was its being designed to deal with the gas shortages of the era at the same time that enormous trucks and utility vehicles (the 'sport' came later) were becoming common household vehicles. In case you didn't notice 10 passenger, 9,800 pound, 4WD all steel, full frame school busses disguised as soccer mom taxis are still a terrible idea. The physics of the 1970's weren't any different than today. Sure, those '70's physics were carbureted and the headlight dimmer switch was still in the floor (should never have gotten away from that) but a vehicle 3x heavier and 175% taller slamming into you at 40MPH while you are completely stopped still crushes your vehicle the same and is more likely to start a fire thanks to the miracle of high pressure fuel lines. Feel free to test at your leisure. However, the 70% of all fatal Pinto collision fires with vehicle weight disparity of 2.5x and higher is sufficient for the Engineer in me.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Should

"Volvo, Saab, Audi, VW, Honda and Renault vehicles each kill(ed) more people in fiery car crashes". Where did you get that from. No American cars on the road then.

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Re: Should

Volvo Cars belonged to Ford between 1999 and 2010. It's Chinese now. SAAB Automotive belonged to GM 2000-2010; it's Dutch now. (It is not a coincidence that Ford and GM dumped their Nordic subsidiaries at the same time.) Audi belongs to VW. Both VW and Audi make many (most?) of their vehicles for the North American market in the US. (With a lot more made in Mexico and Brazil.) Honda makes most of their vehicles for the North American market in the US and Canada. Renault makes a lot of their vehicles for the North American market in the US and Canada.

In other news, Ford used to own both Range Rover and Jaguar. Despite certain extremely obnoxious Jaguar ads, they are both now owned by Tata Motors, in India. Let's hear it for the British Raj. Chrysler is now owned by Fiat. One hopes that Fiat has a few mafiosi on staff so that they can keep Chrysler under control, the Germans at Daimler couldn't.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Should

Very interesting analysis, DJ. Thank you.

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Coat

Re: Should

Eehh, Saab is Chinese now, not Dutch anymore. Victor Muller found out that those Swedes knew a lot about designing good cars, but not so much about actually selling them for a profit. Also there are some differences between running a boutique brand like Spyker, and a high volume brand like Saab.

Now the Chinese are revamping production of the face-lifted (old) 9-3, while transforming the Phoenix platform into an EV friendly and GM-free version for a brand new 9-3.

Mines the jacket with the Saab key in it..

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Re: Should

>>But before you hop on the Pinto wagon (Ha!) do a bit of the same research

You're missing the Pinto point, it's not the number killed, it's the fact that the engineers pointed out the issue in production, and it was totally avoidable, 27 deaths may not mean anything to you, and statistically it's trivial, it's the fact that the explicit decision was explicitly make to leave it knowingly unsafe - even to the point of calculating the cost of recall vs the cost of lawsuit.

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Re: Should

Ah. My error. I didn't think that the Dutch would have dumped it quite so fast and didn't check.

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Re: Should

For the car with license plate 'Snaab'? ;-)

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Re: Should @Will not fix your computer

No. That is absolutely not what occurred. The actual events have were summarized and targeted to grab headlines, no different than today. Engineering manufacturing equipment is my field, so I feel quite confident in summarizing the actual events. I'll explain fully momentarily, but do me a favor, please.

I would prefer you not call my valuations of Human life into question. I have lost astonishingly large fortunes by refusing to deliberately put people in harms way. I've also spent several more large fortunes and created lifelong enemies by using my resources and leverage to stop others from creating dangerous situations. You can hate me, call me anything you like and even make fun of or insult my kids, wife or mom, I don't mind, they can handle themselves. But how I value Human life is off limits. Cool? Have an upvote for considering my request.

The issue you refer to was not the result of an engineer informing management of a potential problem only to have it buried by management. That's how it was portrayed in the media of the time, but shifting emphasis using polarizing language wasn't invented by Fox News or the Daily Mail you know :)

What actually occurred was part of the continuous process improvement that all manufacturers engage in. In automobiles, Engineers are constantly looking at ways to improve something about the manufacturing of the car and the items identified as possible changes are ranked and categorized and after a fairly lengthy process some of those items might be put into production at the next scheduled line stoppage.

Although there are formal processes for versioning of production output, there's a shitload of spit balling too: Quite similar to brainstorming. Everybody just hucks possibilities onto the list then the list is subdivided and sent to the appropriate team responsible for each major subsystem of the car. The individual lists and the impacts of individual line items are analyzed and ranked then everything is recompiled to reflect all the information and that document is sent up to senior operations people where final decisions are made.

Potential safety concerns are always considered and never removed from any of the lists precisely because it looks really bad if a safety related item is deleted & injury/death occurs.

Do you know who else looks at the issues on those lists outside of the car company? It's the same industry where I do a lot of my headhunting for best in field Engineers. Commercial liability insurance companies. An enormous portion of the worlds best Engineers work for commercial liability insurance companies. That's done so that other best in field Engineers such as myself and my staff can't engage in shenanigans and expose the insurer to liabilities hidden inside highly technical information. It has been that way since soldiers wore wide brim helmets, calling someone a 'Nip' wasn't derogatory and airplanes had silk wings and no enclosed cockpit. In other words, for the vast majority of the time since automobiles were a thing.

And now we're getting into some juicy stuff that the fear mongers don't like to discuss. See, the potential risk of the filler neck on Pinto fuel tanks failing and causing serious injury and/or death was looked at, just like every other safety related item on the lists. We'll never get to see the entirety of those lists as the courts ruled them trade secrets not to be disclosed to the public, but it really doesn't matter. The filler neck issue, the large rear class and rear body pillars that might allow the rear of the car to crumple under significant impact, the doors that could become stuck closed if the rear of the car crumpled sufficiently and many other things had all been assessed and found to be of insufficient risk to warrant change.

Internal Ford Engineering Councils had approved the findings unanimously, which doesn't always occur, and the insurance Engineers had also all agreed and that's a really big deal because their employers (insurance companies) want them to find absolutely anything they can use to justify increasing their rates.

In my earlier lost you may have noticed I used a lot of European automakers in my example. That wasn't by accident. When the safety issues had been analyzed earlier the comparison data had come largely from Europe, simply because wee tiny cars had already been on the roads there for decades. The whole Pinto, Vega, Gremlin miniature car idea was rather new the US, so there wasn't a lot of data available about small cars in the US.

Using that data, it was evident that the safety risks about the Pinto were so sufficiently small that attempting to change things could very well create new risks that may not be as small. Furthermore, the Pinto had several safety features related to the fuel tank that were superior to similar implementations in use in Europe and those features were quietly adopted by every significant car manufacturer in Europe. So that's neat, huh? If you were alive in the early 1980's in Europe it's is a near certainty that you rode around in cars with fuel tanks based on the Pinto design.

At the end of the day, yes, Ford and its insurer are responsible for the Pinto fires, injuries and deaths related to the cars catching fire. It is however, absolutely false for anyone to position the issue as the result of a financial decision or a conspiracy to endanger people to save some money.

Sound engineering and testing coupled with, at the time what was the worlds best continuous process improvement practices were followed. The data used was the best available and even today there's no way to accurately forecast huge market shifts in unexpected directions. Nobody, absolutely nobody, foresaw the general public adopting some of the largest non-commercial automobiles ever built and using them as daily drivers. It was baffling to everyone because the small car class the Pinto belonged to was created specifically to reflect consumer concerns about fuel efficiency. People coming out and buying extremely expensive vehicles with zero luxuries or ease of use options that got, no shit, about 4 MPG - Highway, made no sense then, and it still doesn't now. One of the most profitable moves the Big 3 ever made was making trucks nice, and scaling everything down to suit women's smaller size. That didn't happen until the 1990's because everyone believed the whole truck thing to be a fluke.

As with so many other things, people accept 'collective knowledge', the 'everybody knows' stories as fact and never investigate the actual events themselves. It's a shame too, as that's the entire idea behind recording information: So people can look back and learn from the experiences of others.

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Thumb Down

"Safety does not sell"

True that... marketing sells. I don't know if they are aired in the UK, but in the US we have these patronizing, whiny, reedy, preachy "They Lived" Subaru commercials where a hideous wreck is shown and various tow truck drivers, cops, etc. say "They Lived" (by the look of the wreck, they might be vegetables, but they lived I guess) Combine this with another similar one where some hipster-ish douche is seen taking part of his wrecked Subaru as a souvenier--"My Subaru saved my life"

Of course this in no way actually means that Subarus are any more or less safe than any other vehicle, but it does seem to mean that perceived safety does sell cars, or at least high-dollar marketing campaigns do.

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Re: "Safety does not sell"

Of course safety sells, well, at least the perception of safety sells. I know the Subaru commercials well, and yes, they are incredibly annoying. Do you remember the Volvo US commercials from the 1980's and '90's? They were big budget too and were Volvos last ditch effort to get traction in the US market.

They actually had entire studios built for filming crash tests as well as regionally representative crash test dummies made to represent the upper middle class families they were targeting. Black versions, the Asian versions with the glued on, black 'LEGO' haircut and black, wide rim glasses caused a bit of controversy.

It worked, really, really well. An automobile design that was so out of touch with US design preferences that it couldn't be sold here was repositioned as 'it's ugly because it's safe' and people ate that shit up. A metal box with the look and exact proportions of a shoebox became the 'must own' vehicle if you loved your family.

That horrid design and even more horrid headrest design (looked like a square toilet seat) became so synonymous with car safety that Volvo US was almost destroyed when they started to make decent looking cars. New materials allowed the cars to be sexier, and safer, but 'Square is Safer' was stuck in the psyche of US car buyers. It has caused me no end of entertainment that the perceived safety 'downgrade' of newer, not square Volvos, coincided with the cars becoming the car of choice for companies to buy for their Salesdroids. They say it was for the superior Volvo, high mileage warranty, but I think the companies were just hoping their mobile staff would all be killed off :)

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Re: "Safety does not sell"

The incredibly stupid Smart Car 'titanium shell' ad is even worse than the Subaru ad.

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Re: "Safety does not sell"

" It worked, really, really well. An automobile design that was so out of touch with US design preferences that it couldn't be sold here was repositioned as 'it's ugly because it's safe' and people ate that shit up"

They had the same campaign here in the UK, and it worked here too - everyone 'knew' that the ugly Volvo box car was safer.

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MrT
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Volvos...

...Boxy, but Good

Crazy People: the Jaguar advert is also a good one, but they all stick in my mind pretty well...

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Re: Volvos...

Agreed, but I'd rather have the Jag. 8o)

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