Ugly Doesn’t Cost Any Less to Build


By Mark Edmonson, Lean Affiliates

Mark Graban's post earlier today “Lean Isn't about ‘Productivity” and “Quality'” was inspired writing. I couldn't agree more…Marketing and Product Development/Design are critical parts of the product value stream that many “high quality” companies neglect. Design also may be the most cost effective way for a company to quickly improve its quality.

Just this year, JD Powers recognized the importance of design, and changed their “Initial Quality Study” for new vehicles so results now recognize “that Vehicle Design Plays As Critical a Role in Consumer Perceptions of Quality as Defects and Malfunctions”. And guess what happened to the rankings when design was added as a criterion? Porsche went from the bottom 10 in 2004 to #1 in 2006. Apparently many covet a Porsche for its design and forgive its added costs for maintenance and repairs.

Remember Durant's strategy for overtaking Ford in the early 20th century? Offer cars with more attractive style and features for only a bit more $. Although Chevrolet didn't have better “quality” than Ford, the strategy worked, and they over took Ford's market share in 1927. GM never looked back, and offering style and design was their competitive advantage through the 60s. People like Durant, Bill Mitchell, and Larry Shinoda led their inspired design teams who created vehicles the public instantly coveted (49 Olds, 57 Chevrolet, 63 Stingray, 63 Riveria, and 67 Camaro are just a few of their classic designs that come to mind).

It doesn't cost any less to a build dowdy, poorly designed car than a stylish, beautifully designed one. This may be the cost-effective secret GM needs to realize…again.

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Mark Edmondson
Mark Edmondson is passionate about achieving rapid, breakthrough results during a company’s lean transformation. With 30 years of front-line experience while working with over 80 companies, Mr. Edmondson developed a philosophy of helping companies create a culture that sustains operational excellence through low cost yet transformative changes.


  1. Well sounds like an interesting idea but let’s hope Consumer Reports does not follow the same path.
    In my opinion, the value of those ratings are to quantify and uncover the hidden information that a buyer needs to make an informed decision.
    When I want to compare 2 cars, photos are all I need to compare the aesthetic design, but the information in CR or JD powers helps me compare the 2 vehicles based on variables that I am unable to get or would require too much of my time to collect.

  2. One of Tom Peters’ standard slides and discussion points is to ask his audience “How many of you really CRAVE a Chevrolet?” The answer is normally very few.


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