Re: China is Coming: Observations from an Expert | In Depth

Ken Nelson

Dave, your experience backs up a lot of the things I've seen at a distance - very poorly made stuff coming over at first, then slowly getting better.  When I was an instructor at the Techshop in the SF bay  area starting around 2006 or thereabouts, this DIY startup for gearheads or anyone who wanted cheap access to industrial eqpt like lathes, mills, welders, anyone could join for about $100/mo, take short courses of maybe 3 hrs to learn the eqpt basics, then have access to the stuff 24/7.  This was about the time Harbor Freight tools started up, only everyone at this shop called it Hazard Fraught - which was partially true!   I actually had one of their variable speed right angle elec drills catch fire in my hands!  Took it apart & found the assembler - probably a 10 yr old kid - routed the hot wire NOT past the spacer pin molded inside the case, but on the opposite side, and in contact with the commutator!  As soon as the drill wore thru the insulation it turned into a spark/flamne generator!  So- I fixed the wire, reassembled and it's been working ever since.  

I've also seen what I think of as inexcusable manufacturing errors - in products sold thru Home Despot!  But that was 20 yrs ago.  I'd certainly want a US rep covering anything I had over there if I did - only way to really know what's going on but even then all sorts of stuff could be going on behind the scenes.   Recently I saw some stories about Chinese buildings collapsing due to  shoddy construction and awful materials - did you hear anything like that from the expats?  However, after listening to Sandy I'll bet the Chinese have lifted the bar a whole lot in the intervening yrs - after all, they're sending all sorts of things into space and beyond.  Plus they've got a billion more minds working on things than we do - scary thought as to what they might be able to come up with.  Our only hope may be that guys like Elon keep moving so much faster than "traditional" competitive mfrs here that he'll outrun the Chinese car co's


On Sun, Nov 14, 2021 at 10:43 PM Dave Smith <gornzilla@...> wrote:
Thanks for writing that, Ken! I love learning about things like this. I'm not an engineer and don't have that type of experience, but I love listening to engineers and designers talk about issues like this. I'll be watching the "Elon & Sandy: Design Philosophy Parallels" tonight and possibly some more of the Tesla tear downs. I watched the short ones from the first Model 3, a few of the Model Y (and the wrap up fo the Y), and several of the 2021 Model 3.  

When I was working in China I met a few expats working for the local race circuit (Zhuhai). It was built for Formula One, but failed to meet FIA standards. It seems like every factory building for export (not just cars) had to have foreign supervision. An acquaintance was there supervising the building of an oil refinery for a massive American oil company. It was a lot of work to train and try to convince why minimal standards had to be met, and it was a battle to maintain. They were shocked at how low Chinese management was trying to go. 

It was a topic at the expat bars with foreigners from around the world who were in supervisory factory roles if the difficulty of meeting minimal standards is an effect from the Cultural Revolution. Maybe that's what is keeping China from taking over the world, but if they solve that it'll be massive. 


On Wed, Nov 10, 2021 at 9:36 AM Ken Nelson <citbuff@...> wrote:
> Hi Dave, I worked for Dupont Automotive Polymers Dept in Detroit & taught the auto guys how to use our high strength nylon and other engineering plastics to make engine/transmission/mechanical parts to lightweight the cars for 30 yrs and saw a lot of what Sandy describes as the internal machinations of the co's.  Sandy started as an engineer and morphed into a design/development/manufacturing guru to start his own consulting co, and he used to race as a hobby - and now he's a well-known mentor to lots of co's.
> I met him last yr thru a mutual friend, John McElroy who has his own podcast program called Autoline Detroit.  John is basically a research reporter from inside the industry who created his own career when he was told by the guy behind J.D. Power, who has become the guru of data analysis for the industry, to go see the Japanese back in the early '80s when they started pumping Toyotas & Hondas over here and blew the doors off Detroit.  McElroy went there on his own volition, was actually greeted well by them, and learned how they were eatlng our lunch.  
> John came back & told Detroit what was going on, and they basically blew him off, along with Japan - but not any more.  
> Since then, John and Sandy have become very well known for telling the industry what's really happening around the world, and when I met John in 1999, it was when Citroen came to Detroit to push the DS for the Car of the Century contest.  Richard Lucki, then Director of PSA's office in Detroit which fed industry info to France, put together a show for the Detroit auto press in the then brand new Automotive Hall of Fame built on the grounds of the HF museum in Dearborn, right next to Ford Engine Engineering where I did a lot of my work on Dupont glass reinforced nylon intake manifolds with them.
> Citroen mgmnt sent their PR lady, Gro Hoeg, over with several engrs and designers, to present a video history of Citroen in the Hall, and Richard asked me to pull together local owners cars to exhibit in the hall.  John attended as one of the local news reps, and it was there that I learned John was a closet Citroen fan - who fell for a gorgeous dark blue ID19 I had been maintaining for a local guy.  He found the car was for sale  and bought it on the spot,, and I've continued to help him with it when small issues have popped up.  John has even been chided for falling for French stuff by Bob Lutz when John had his car at an internal GM car club event, but just in fun, as Bob owned a Traction 15-6 for yrs in his 12 car collection  that I helped him with way back.  
> So long story short, Sandy is way ahead of the Detroit car industry in some ways, plus John and he know all the insiders and have to be careful about what the talk about - but Sandy has torn down every Tesla model built and sent out design/production reports to clients who want to know what's happening and where - as far as he can  tell them.  John knew about a car proposal thesis I did for my master's deg back in '75 - to make a small electric car chassis in 3 huge injection-foam molded engineering plastic modules which would plug together like Lego blocks. John knew that Sandy had just analyzed Tesla's latest design of three huge experimental aluminum diecast modules to leapfrog current multiple-piece stamped, welded steel construction - which would eliminate thousands of stampings - potentially significantly reducing mfrng cost.  So John & I took my model to Sandy & next thing I knew he brought his whole crew into the conf. room to see it and do a comparison to Tesla's approach..  
> Main thing I told them was that my proposal would have failed in many ways at that time, but the concept could work for a stronger material, and who knows what currently unknown materials might be developed.  So for anyone interested in seeing what might displace our fun classsics in the future may want to tune into these two guys - and many thanks to the Ctiroen/Mercedes/Volvo owner who sent me this video - you know who you are - you're paying more attention to this stuff than I am!  
> Ken

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