Within the confines of GM’s Warren Technical Center lays a building the size of a football field, where cars from the competition are taken in and torn apart in quest to find out what makes them tick. In a process known as a competitive teardown, GM engineers analyze every part that goes into making the competitor’s vehicle, and gain insight on choice of materials, weight and production costs.

The latest victim is a silver Lexus RX 400h hybrid SUV, which will soon be just a pile of parts categorized alongside a 2006 Mercedes ML350, VW Touareg plus several Chryslers, Hondas, BMWs and Fords. When GM was developing its new CTS, a BMW 3-series was the benchmark to which most of the specifications had to meet. Nothing is left untouched. Stereos, seat padding, bumpers, everything you can conceivably think of goes under inspection.



Each vehicle takes about six weeks to complete. First every detail is measured and stored in a database. In some cases engineers take a heavy-duty saw, cutting the vehicle into slices to determine material strength and rigidity. Once totally disassembled, the bean counters come in and figure out cost estimates for each part, and where GM can make savings. All the info is then stored into a database, which engineers then use to design new GM products.

GM isn't the only car maker that reverse engineers competitor vehicles. A rising trend, especially amongst Chinese automakers is the blatant copying of designs without any credit given to the original manufacturer, but this is clearly illegal in most regions. The auto industry is not alone in practising the art of competitive teardowns. It’s been going on in the electronics industry for decades. There’s even a website, Portelligent, that’s dedicated to publishing teardown details of popular electronic equipment referred to as “technology intelligence.”

Source: Wired | Via Autoblog.nl