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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Product development in the wide open...a quick review of the smyth process

by Smyth Performance on Wednesday, February 16, 2011 at 11:37am
new product process

Now that we are in the official pre-launch home stretch with the g3f I looked back over this amazing thread and the facebook page looking for simple take home lessons in product development for the ffr/Lm guys that they may or may not have learned. So even if you learned much of these lessons already, it is always fun to center your thoughts and here is a first try review.

The first lesson that ffr is actively taking from both LM and Smyth performance is the power of a wide open new product process...super secret is dead. For small companies with a vocal and car savy following this is THE way to go. Look at the g3f....the transition from simple "mark's mini me" into a full on daily driver with factory crash protection and climate controls for 10 grand was made possible by the comments and critical musings of customers and stakeholders. Even brother dave's public distaste for the idea served to mold the our case a good move away from the ffr business model ...a great outcome that made for three companies(LM, FFR and Smyth) in three very different corners of the home built market.

The second big lesson is not new...every new product idea goes through some clear stages...the concept and euphoria stage lights the fire...for the smyth car it was the idea of light mid engined diesel vw with performance...for ffr it is being seen live right now with all the optimism around the ultra performance subaru wrx is a fun stage where the world seems possible and the ideas start flowing in...with tape and a few steel tubes people go wild with excitement....good times.

The third stage is the trade off stage where the real discussion about what we want out of the car takes shape around some early hard points. for us it was the first cut jetta where i was sitiing in the car with the engine positioned in the back...2+2? daily driver? track car? vr6 turbo? coupe only? targa? convertible? mini gtm? celica lights? diffusers? you guys who have followed this thread for a year and a half remember this well. It is here that you lose a few of the euphoric people that see a different direction. You can't make everybody you pick a segment that makes the most emotional and business sense and get to the business of making a car. Bob lutz said it best(i approximate the words from his book) when he did the new(then) dodge ram pickups....7 out of ten in the focus group hated the truck and 3 loved it...he turns and says cool...i only have 15% market share...we can double it.

the fourth stage for us was the execution stage. The car has to work as a car not a concept...if you are good(dave riha and pisani at LM, Jim and Jesper at FFR, me here at smyth) you get there quick with your experience. If you are not good at making cars you sit in this stage for years. Transitioning a car from rough idea into a 90% close prototype is the main event. It is also the time when full reality hits those who were interested in the concept. If you didnt lose them in the trade off stage you definitely lose themhere.....ahhh...but wait....the loyal crowd that connects with the car also start engaging deeply in the project. If the concept and prototype are spot on you can form the all important beta list.

The fifth stage is delivering the realities of the prototype to market at a price and quality that is acceptable to the customer. The market speaks loudly at this stage and you find out if you are shipping 2 a month in a lifestyle business or shipping 40 a month with a nice small manufacturing facility.

Can you tell I am writing the book this summer

mark __________________
<span>Smyth Performance.... Go Green, Go Fast</span>

The finished shape...most everyone voted to ditch the exposed shock tower in the nose top...there will be a small bump there instead...but I am very pleased that we could make a jetta into such a nice looking sports car
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