Automakers have their own way of evaluating their creations — and it isn't pleasant.
Ford engineers expanded safety testing for the new 2012 Ford Focus, including more than 12,000 virtual and real-world crash tests globally, to prove out its new safety technologies.
Because the design of an automobile has such an impact on public safety, the environment and the lifestyle of owners, it's easy to understand why cars are one the most evaluated products on the planet.
The results of many of these assessments are considered vital public information, and consumers often see things such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash data and EPA fuel-economy ratings as crucial to their purchasing decisions.
But cars endure a whole other series of trials that consumers generally have little exposure to — and that are far more rigorous.
They happen long before you've even heard of a vehicle's existence, at proving grounds that, while not exactly unknown to the world, are nonetheless highly secretive. The little awareness customers do have of these trials often comes via manly truck commercials on TV, designed to impress the macho masses.
"That stuff makes nice visuals, but isn't meant to be sensational," says Leon Stokes, senior manager of global validation for General Motors. "We are trying to emulate real-world usage."
While Stokes tries to play up the practical aspects of these torture tests — and they are practical — they are also over-the-top and brutal.
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Proving grounds are complexes used by automakers to evaluate the performance and reliability of their vehicles. Chrysler, Ford, GM and Toyota all have multiple facilities around the globe; Ford alone has seven. The largest of these proving grounds are enormous in scale: GM's Milford, Mich., site is more than 4,000 acres, spanning two counties, with 140 miles of test tracks and 142 buildings.
As Stokes points out, the majority of tests are designed and run to simulate the rigors of real-world usage over time. But, as you know, the real world is an ugly place, and engineers spend their days at the proving grounds creating worst-case scenarios. That means not only building the most awful potholes and suspension-jarring frost heaves, or icing roads to evaluate antilock brakes and stability-control systems, but also dreaming up and running simulations for intense dust storms, as well as monsoons.
"We do water-wading testing with huge puddles that the vehicle must be able to drive through," says Andreas Ostendorf, Ford's global director for vehicle evaluation and verification. "In some parts of the world, you get these huge rainstorms, so that within two hours you get 80-centimeter-deep [2.5 feet] puddles in the road, but you've still got to drive home. So we simulate this on our proving grounds."
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What most people do not realize is that the majority of car failures is due to owner negligence.
That oil that is in the engine when you buy the car brand new was never meant to last for 50,000 miles or longer. Heck, even with some cars today having warnings to change the oil, people are still ignoring that warning and not changing the oil.
Car warranties do not cover stupidity.
Like another poster has mentioned, i have seen people with cars where it looks AND sounds like the engine has reached its point of failure but they have $2000+ worth of wheels and tires on the car and $1500+ worth of stereo equipment. To rebuild an engine, it can cost between $1500 and $3500, depending on the shop doing the work, the type of engine and how bad the engine really is.
But, with young people today, i guess its better to have the car look and sound great but run terrible.
@VirgilHicks. They test cars. They test a car before it's sold to the public. The cars they test are the early builds before the main production lines are running at full blast. They do this to try and work out the kinks in the design of the hundreds (if not thousands) of systems that go into a car's design. Those recalls you mentioned are happening because manufacturers (and car owners) are finding things that need fixing as the cars are built/driven. That happens when something is built.
Have you ever built any one thing that was so perfect that you never had to fiddle with it again?
From what you wrote, you want to buy a car after the manufacturer has simulated 100,000+miles of rough roads, rain, salt spray, 100+ degree weather, owner neglect on maintenance/oil changes, spilled soda/food, bad roads etc. Tell you what. I have a 1996 Pathfinder. Runs really well,(doesn't burn oil or overheat) it's been through snow, rain, sand and even went down the road (about 100 feet) on it's driver's side door once. Has about 250,000 miles. It;''s been tested extremely well. A new untested Pathfinder was about $18,000 back in 1996. Since this car is fully tested, I can let you have it for ............... $21,000 (the extra $3000 is the testing fee). ;)
If I hadn't let my passport lapse, I probably would have spent a week or so in Kapuskasing doing cold weather torture testing on vehicles. I don't like the cold, so it didn't break my heart staying in (relatively) warm weather Detroit.
Be a helluva lot simpler and cheaper if they would just give a few of he test cars to 16yr old kids... Never seen a teen yet that couldn't totally trash even the toughest car in a matter of months.
Had a nephew who called his dad to come pull him out of the woods.. He had driven about 12 miles up a powerline cut offroading with his friends.. This, in a 1992 Olds Cutlass Ciera (which had been his grandmothrs car and prior to him getting it, didnt have even a scratch)...