Tom Haines

Could it be that aviation is a leading manufacturing innovator?

May 27, 2009 by Thomas B. Haines, Editor in Chief

Some business analysts are suggesting that auto makers must reinvent themselves in order to survive. WIRED magazine this month carries an article about how the car makers should become more like PC makers did 20 years ago. Early computers were purpose built by their manufacturers from hardware to software. All of that changed when companies began designing machines with standardized parts and the ability to run software programs written by anyone. Some of the old-line computer manufacturers couldn’t compete and went out of business.

WIRED suggests that car manufacturers should look to the PC world as a model. How about looking to aircraft manufacturers? Whether in the airliner, business jet, or piston markets, companies focus on what they do best, using major components from other manufacturers. Airframe manufacturers are really good at designing and building airplanes, but they leave the designing and building of avionics and engines to companies that do that well.

Do Ford, GM, and Chrysler really need to design and build their own engines and chassis and transmissions? Some car companies design and build everything, right down to the car radio. Necessary? Probably not.

Perhaps our aircraft manufacturers have been right all along.


9 Responses to “Could it be that aviation is a leading manufacturing innovator?”

  1. Carl Tyler Says:

    That’s not a new idea. In Europe Rover used Honda engines for years and Volvos had Renault engines.

  2. michelle wilkers Says:

    give me a break, if the auto industry looked to the GA industry we would soon be driving cars from the 50s with engines from the 40s. While your premise is a good idea, aviation goes this way because with rare exception (Cirrus, Lancair/Columbia in airframe only, still using 50 year old engines) airplane companies refuse to innovate or can’t afford to. I believe this is mainly because the volume just isn’t there. But to imply that car companies should follow GA, is ridiculous because my car is actually a massively improved version over that of 40 years ago, while my airplane performs worse than the same model I owned 40 years ago (though the avionics are much better than the factory originals from 1965, and the paint job is very modern:).

  3. Keith miller Says:

    Other auto manufacturers do that as well. My 1992 Isuzu Rodeo (later sold to Honda as the Passport then morphed ointo the Pilot) has a Chevy engine. When replacing A/C parts i brought the failing unit into a parts shop and they replaced it with an identical unit with another makers logo on it.

  4. Ashley Palmer Says:

    Aviation manufacturers have done SOME things very well. But They are not the model for the auto industry. Neither is the PC industry. If they followed the PC industry we wouldn’t have the reliability or safety demanded today. If they followed the aviation industry we’d have cars that would be reliable and safe, but they would be unaffordable and require prohibitive maintenance to keep them that way.

    The real key to “improving the Auto industry” is to make the companies LESS vertical. They don’t need to make everything and more standardization in major components is required.

  5. James T. Kloeb Says:

    I would suggest that aircraft manufactures look at what the auto makers do to provide low volume products at prices that people can afford. Why not collaborate with automakers to reuse commodities such as seats, instrument panels, seat belts, etc, etc, that are already in production in the car business in high volumes to leverage a carryover buy for their planes at substantially lower prices, rather than tool up something new.

  6. Jean-Francois Reat Says:

    Because of the different regulatory processes and market volumes, you can’t readily translate methods from one industry to another. I expect more robust certification and safety features in my airplane and car than in my PC, for which the main safety concern is that it not spontaneously catch fire.

  7. Thomas Says:

    I’ve been wondering about this exact topic for quite a while. I’m glad I found your blog so I could read up on it and get a bit more knowledge. I’ve bookmarked this site and I’ll be back soon. Keep up the good work1

  8. hondas for sale Says:

    Still cant believe they did this.

  9. James Caremon Says:

    Some business analysts are suggesting that auto makers must reinvent themselves in order to survive, in this days computers are more useful then cars..:p

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