Don’t Pre-Judge the American Automobile Industry

For the sake of argument, let’s say that Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player to ever play in the NBA. Danny Ferry was at the time, one of the greatest college basketball players of his day. Michael Jordan was not select as the first pick in the NBA draft after he finished his career with North Carolina-he was selected by the Chicago Bulls with the third overall pick-and the rest is history. When Danny Ferry completed his days at Duke University, he was the first player selected in the draft, but he chose to ply his trade in Europe. After a few years he came back to the NBA and played with the Cleveland Cavaliers as a mediocre player on a mediocre team. This article is not a sport critique of basketball players, but I am trying to draw an analogy. What if an NBA GM issued a statement such as “Michael Jordan is an African American and Danny Ferry is a Caucasian, therefore, I will only draft African Americans from this time forward”? A statement such as this would probably cause quite a stir not only in the NBA, but across the entire country.

If a police officer stops a car full of kids in an affluent neighborhood because they don’t look like they belong there, it is called racial profiling. The ACLU would be on the case as soon as this information became public and the officer could face disciplinary charges.

Neither of the above examples would be accepted in today’s “enlightened” society, but how many times have your heard “I will never buy an American car…they’re not as good as the Japanese”? I’ve never understood society’s acceptance of this type of prejudice. I am not saying this as an out of work auto worker, or a flag waving patriot blinded by the red, white and blue, but as a quality professional with over 25 years experience. I have personally been on the receiving end of upset plant or quality managers in Ford, General Motors and Chrysler assembly plants. I have been in plants where components rolled off the same line and into two boxes-one goes to an American OEM and one to Honda or Toyota.

When I graduated from college in the early 1980’s, the Midwest was in terrible shape. I was an industrial engineer who could not find a job. With minimal experience, I was competing for “entry level” jobs against people with 5-10 years experience; I ended up working through a series of jobs with very limited futures. Right or wrong, I believed that the condition of the American Automotive Industry was at the root of the problems. It is well documented that the “big three” was struggling with the quality of their cars and trying to introduce more fuel efficient cars into their platforms, that just a few years earlier were filled with “muscle cars”. The Japanese really caught Detroit with their shorts down. As a young idealist, I was going to do my part and buy American. Over the years I’ve owned ten American cars, (five GM, three Chryslers and two Fords). And over the years I’ve been extremely satisfied with my American Cars. My favorite of all of the cars was a 1996Ford Escort. I owned that vehicle for 8 years and put over 230,000 mile on it. The car had the original suspension, original motor original transmission and the original clutch when I replaced it. The body looked great, and other then the normal scratches, was in great shape. By the way, I didn’t trash the car, I gave it to my 16 year old daughter who learned to drive on it and also learned to drive a stick shift (a lost art for many young people-but that is story for another time). After much soul searching and self justification, I convinced myself to look at all models of cars-not just American cars. I searched the web, shopped around and finally found a good deal on a Toyota Matrix. Working in the Automotive Industry as a Quality Manager at the time, I was very excited at the prospect of getting a vehicle produced from the acclaimed “Toyota Production System”. If I could be so happy with a simple ford Escort, I couldn’t wait to see what joys were ahead of me as I got behind the wheel of a Japanese masterpiece. The honeymoon lasted about two months, when the first hubcap fell off. A new one was purchased at the dealer, and it promptly fell off. This has been an ongoing battle from the entire time I’ve owned the car. There are other minor issues with the car, but nothing more then an inconvenience. The vehicle has been a reliable car with over 140,000 miles and has never left me stranded, but the allure of a Toyota was overrated. It’s just a car, like my Buick, Fords, Chevys, and Chryslers. There is nothing magic about the name of the rear of the car.

Honda and Toyota and Nissans etc all make very good cars-as does Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. There is no comparison between cars of today and those of thirty years ago. In the mid 1970’s you could look in a newspaper for a used car and find one listed with “high mileage” and it would turn out to be 65,000 and the owner needed to get rid of it before it fell apart on him. Now a car is broken in at 65,000 and may need a new set of tires. Please don’t paint today’s American Automotive Industry with a 30 year old brush. If you do, we may paint ourselves into a corner that there is no easy way out of. I’m not suggesting that everyone needs to buy American, only that we need to stop spreading negative “rumors” about the Big Three.

Dynamometer History – A Timeline of Innovation

Dynamometers have been a part of performance measurement since the days when the presence of horsepower was usually accompanied by four hooves and a tail. This versatile tool is applied around the world, as companies like Taylor Dynamometer build on past innovations with new breakthroughs in data gathering and system control technology.

  • 1828 Gaspard de Prony invented the de Prony Brake, one of the earliest dynamometers
  • 1838 Charles Babbage, known to historians as the Father of the Computer, introduces a dynamometer car to measure the pulling power of English railroad locomotives
  • 1877 William Froude of Great Britain invents the first hydraulic dynamometer, with the first commercial models produced in 1881
  • 1921 Professor E.V. Collins of Iowa State College develops a draft horse dynamometer, used to measure a horse’s capability to pull the era’s heavy metal farm implements
  • 1930 Using designs pioneered through a collaboration with Rudolph Diesel, John Taylor forms the Taylor Dynamometer and Machine Company to produce engine dynamometers
  • 1931 Martin and Anthony Winther introduce the first eddy current dynamometer

Throughout the past seven decades of continued dynamometer development, Taylor has maintained its status as a leader in advancing power measurement technology. Contact us to learn about the latest developments in dynamometers and engine diagnostics, or to inquire about a specific dyno product or application.

How Dynamometers Work

All dynamometers perform the same essential function, measuring the torque, rotational speed and power output of a combustion engine, electric motor or other power source. While the outcome is the same, many technologies are used to achieve the desired result.

Two Main Types

Most dynamometers can be placed within two distinct categories. Engine dynamometers are designed for coupling directly to the driveshaft of an engine under test, and chassis dynamometers measure the power output of a drive train by using rollers turned by the tires of a vehicle under test. In addition to the two traditional types, Taylor offers a line of portable dynamometers that attach directly to the flywheel of an engine. This allows accurate measurement of engine output without removal of an engine from its drive train.

A Variety of Designs

The work of handling and measuring input power is performed by instruments with a variety of different designs:

o Eddy current dynamometers present a measurable resistant force to engines under test by harnessing the magnetic flux between fixed and rotating electromagnets spun by the engine under test.

o A variant of the eddy current design, powder dynamometers create flux through the application of a fine magnetic powder between the rotor and coil

o Electric motor/generator types are a variation on the adjustable speed drive, using solid state components rather than the physical relationship between electromagnets to create measurable power transfer

o Fan, hydraulic and water brakes use air, water or hydraulic fluid to deliver physical resistance to the power applied by an engine or motor under test. The amount of resulting force absorbed by the fluid is measured to provide an indication of the power applied to the system

The best resource for details on dynamometer function and application is a Taylor Dynamometer application specialist. Contact us for full details on putting the latest in dynamometer technology to work in your application.

Eddy Current Dynamometer History

The story of the eddy current dynamometer is a tale of two Danish boys from Wisconsin, growing up in a time when innovations required an inquiring mind and a machine shop rather than a supercomputer and a doctoral degree. Martin Phillip Winther arrived at Ellis Island, New York in 1892 from his native Denmark. The family ultimately settled in Kenosha Wisconsin, where Martin and his American-born brother Anthony began their working lives as laborers at the Jeffry Company, makers of the Rambler automobile. At Jeffry, the brothers were involved in the engineering of a four-wheel-drive truck, which led them to break away and found the Winther Motor and Truck Company in 1917. While Winther Motor and Truck made several types of motor vehicles (including light trucks, fire engines and a sporty automobile) the firm’s chief product was innovation. Beginning around 1920, Martin and Anthony Winther were granted patents for almost 300 mechanical devices. These included the first successful air conditioning system for Pullman railroad cars, a four-wheel-drive post hole digger for AT&T, the first induction coupling, a magnetic clutch, a cycle-car, variable-speed transmission gears, as well as a giant press drive, brakes and couplings for the oil field industry.

Although prolific, only one of the Winther brothers’ inventions proved to have lasting impact. They are chiefly known for the invention of the eddy current dynamometer, a type of high speed, high power dynamometer capable of far surpassing the products then available in terms of power handling capability. The eddy current dyno was able to turn fast enough to test the turbine engines used in aircraft, wind tunnels and high speed automobiles of the day. The eddy current dynamometer was the chief product of the Dynamatic Corporation, founded by the Winthers in 1932. The firm was successful for many years both before and after the brothers sold their interest to Eaton Corporation in 1946. Variations on the eddy current design still serve as the basis for dynamometers today. The designs continued use is a testament to the ingenuity of two men who never rose above the eighth grade in formal education, yet parlayed their considerable on-the-job insight into a lasting legacy of technical achievement.

Understanding Feature-Function-Benefit Presentation

Feature-function-benefit selling presentations are effective because they work. For the purpose of brevity I will refer to it as “FFB” in this article. A professional sales training program will include this important technique in some form or another. You may see it referred to by a slightly different name, such as feature-need-benefit or another closely worded name but no matter the name, it is the same technique.

Here is a simple way to make FFB an integral part of every sales effort and benefit from it. Let’s start by defining each of the terms.

FEATURE

This is the “what is it” part of FFB. Every product or service has unique features that separate it from the competition. If the feature is common to other products the way it is presented will help separate you from your competitor.

FUNCTION

What does it do? During your presentation this part of FFB gives your customer the opportunity to see how it works. It goes without saying that proficient product knowledge is a must.

BENEFIT

Why should your customer have it? Here is where you solve a problem, fill a need and re-inforce why your product or service is the right one.

Let’s do a simple exercise that puts FFB into action.

Suppose you sell automobiles. In today’s world most of them have anti-lock brakes as either standard or optional equipment. Now, you are showing your customer the vehicle. You can either say:

“This car has anti-lock brakes” or you can use FFB to your advantage and say:

“This vehicle is equipped with anti-lock brakes.(The feature) In the event of an emergency braking situation you fully depress the brake pedal to the floor. (The function) The Anti-lock brake system is designed to bring you to a complete and straight stop without allowing the wheels to skid. This prevents loss of control and avoids sliding off the highway or into oncoming traffic. (The Benefit)

Here is where many salespeople forget an important step. Always end your FFB presentation with a tie-down or evidence statement. In the above example it would sound like this:

“I think you’ll agree that is an important safety feature.”

Think of the product or service you sell. As an exercise to become comfortable with FFB write down some key features and practice presenting them using this method. It will pay huge dividends.

The Saving of NASCAR’s Jack Roush

It was Friday evening, and Larry and Donna Hicks were about to watch the six o’clock news in their lakeside home at Palos Verdes Estates outside Troy, Alabama. Hicks was a 52-year-old retired Sergeant Major with the Marines, now working as a conservation enforcement officer for the state of Alabama. He had arrived home from work half an hour earlier, and he and Donna had talked about going to a movie, but decided against it.

The TV news was just starting, when they looked out the window and saw a small plane flying down the shoreline of Palos Verdes Lake.

“I wonder if he knows about the power lines,” Larry said, just as the aircraft suddenly shuddered to a halt, flipped over, and headed straight down into lake. Hicks was already running out the back door as the plane hit the water, yelling behind to his wife, “Call 911! I’m going to see if I can help the pilot.”

Fortunately, Larry’s brother, Wayne, had left a 14-foot aluminum johnboat, with an electric trolling motor, at the lake in preparation for bass fishing that day, then had not shown up. Donna made the call to 911, and ran outside in time to see Larry commandeering the johnboat, headed toward the Air-Cam, which was about 100 yards off shore.

Years before, when Hicks had been stationed at the Marine Air Corps Station in Iwakuni, Japan, he had spent two-and-a-half months, part time, in an intense Search and Rescue program. A major got him into it because he thought Hicks would be good at it since he was muscular and into weight building. The training was specifically directed toward saving pilots who had gone down in water in fixed-wing or rotary-wing planes. Hicks learned how to get pilots out of planes that had crashed upside down. However, he remained in the telecommunications unit, and never had the opportunity to use his specialized training.

The engine of the Air-Cam was hot when it hit Palos Verdes Lake, and the airplane was smoking in the water. High octane aviation fuel from a ruptured fuel tank floated over the surface making greasy patterns. The back half of the aircraft and a broken wing were sticking up from the water. Hicks climbed out of the boat onto the wing and tethered a line to the plane to keep the boat from floating away. The heavy smell of gas assaulted his nostrils. It was only later that he thought about the danger of the plane blowing up.

The water was murky, and Hicks had trouble getting his bearings underwater. The plane had crashed in the middle of an underwater “stump field,” but luckily had missed hitting any trees. The first time down, Hicks ran out of air and was forced back to the surface without locating the pilot. The second time, he felt the back of the man’s neck under his hand. After another trip to the surface, he took a deep breath, and descended a third time.

Larry’s military training–the repeat drill of what to do until it became second nature–took over: “Locate Pilot, Extract Pilot…” Hicks felt for the pilot’s seatbelt; fortunately, it was one he recognized by feel from his training in the military. He released the belt, and the pilot floated into his arms. Hicks swam to the surface, pulling the man with him. The pilot had bones sticking through his legs, and his feet were turned the wrong way.

The man was bleeding through the nose and mouth, and was no longer breathing. He had drowned. The Troy police had arrived on the lake bank by now. Larry yelled to the officers,”He’s not breathing,” and he heard one police officer say to another, “He’s dead.”

Hicks hauled the man up against the wing that was sticking above the water and put a modified Heimlich maneuver under his ribs and pulled up to get the water out of his lungs, then started modified CPR. The inert figure coughed up water and blood, then on the fifth breath, started to breathe. “I’ve got him breathing again,” Hicks yelled to the rescue unit on the shore.

Hicks gripped the wing of the plane with his left hand, lying on his back in the water, supporting the pilot on his chest with his right arm to keep his head above water. He felt a stinging sensation from the aviation fuel, which worsened until he was in great pain. He found out later, the top layer of his skin had burned off.

The rescue unit brought out an extra boat, put the pilot on the backboard and floated him to shore. Larry tried to follow the four members of the rescue team as they walked out of the lake, but his legs gave way. He and the pilot were transported to the Troy hospital.

While Hicks was being treated for the gasoline burns on his upper body, he heard the helicopters arrive to airlift the pilot to the University of Alabama Medical Center in Birmingham. After a decontamination shower, Hicks was released.

Word was out almost immediately that a light plane had crashed, piloted by celebrity Jack Roush, NASCAR and Winston Cup car owner since 1988. An aircraft aficionado, friends of Roush had arranged for him to fly the Air-Cam, a specialized aircraft built specifically for photography, as a birthday gift.

Roush was initially put on a respirator, with a trauma team working on him. He had inhaled water and gasoline and suffered closed-head injuries, rib fractures, a collapsed lung, compound fractures to his left leg, and broken ankles. He did not remember anything from the time of the accident until he woke up in the hospital that weekend.

Amazingly enough, six days after the accident, Roush was running his business by telephone from his hospital bed. By Sunday, he had arranged for Larry and Donna to be flown by private jet to Birmingham, Alabama, to visit him.

Six weeks later, Roush piloted a plane from his Michigan home and hobbled around on crutches at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware, overseeing his four-car Winston Cup team. Larry and Donna were by his side.

Larry Hicks has no doubt that a Higher Power was at work in Jack Roush’s incredible rescue. If the Air-Cam had hit the high tension power lines instead of the support wires as it did, the plane would have gone down in flames. If it had crashed on the ground or hit a tree in the underwater stump field where it landed, Roush would have been killed instantly. If Larry and Donna had gone to a movie that evening, as they had discussed, or simply been in another part of the house, they would not have seen the plane go down, and Jack Roush would have died. If Wayne Hicks had not left the johnboat ready to go, there would have been no rescue.

But, most amazing of all, Hicks was one of a small percentage of the populace with the specialized knowledge necessary to save a pilot in an upside-down plane from a watery grave. And, one other thing was necessary to save Jack’s life, which is that Hicks is a man of action who did not hesitate to put himself at risk to save a stranger’s life.

Epilogue

Larry Hicks was recognized with many honors as a result of his heroic rescue of Jack Roush, including the Marine Corps Medal of Heroism, the Carnegie Award for Heroism from the Carnegie Foundation, the Kiwanis International Robert P. Connally Medal for Heroism, and the Society of the Sons of the American Revolution Medal for Heroism. The story of the rescue appeared in People magazine, and Larry and Jack were on the cover NASCAR Illustrated.

Larry exhibits great pride that he lived up to the United States Marine Corps Code of serving his country with Honor, Courage, and Commitment, with selfless service.