Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Getting it right matters

It's hard to believe someone could develop a product so awful that it could kill an entire category, but GM managed to do just that back in the '70s.

Compared to gasoline engines, diesels are more efficient, more reliable, more durable, can run more easily on synthetic and biofuels, and now are very clean burning.

With all those benefits why aren't there more diesels in American cars? I offer exhibit A: The 1978 Olds Cutlass Diesel.

The 5.7 liter V8 diesel that GM cobbled together for that car in the midst of the energy crisis was so bad it killed the whole concept of diesels for generations of American car buyers.

So while more than 50% of new cars in Europe are sold with diesel engines, that number is about 4% in the U.S. and would be closer to zero were it not for the efforts of VW and BMW who have both spent millions of dollars in advertising to trumpet diesel's benefits.

This is just a reminder that when developing new products, if you do something wrong – really, really wrong – you can, in fact, ruin it for the rest of us.

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