Schramm, the chief engineer for Cable and Component Design (CCD), glanced at the RIM grommet in his hand and considered the risks and benefits. Packard Electric had developed the RIM (Reaction Injection Molded) grommet as a new technology for passing the wires from the engine compartment through the fire wall to the passenger compartment of passenger automobiles. The Product, Process, and Reliability (PPR) committee, which had the final responsibility for the new product development process, had asked Schramm for his analysis and recommendation as to whether Packard Electric should commit to the RIM grommet for a 1992 model year car. It was already March 1, 1990 and, because of the lead time on the equipment and tooling, the decision had to be made within the week (see Exhibit 1 for the project schedule). While many of the product development people were very excited by the RIM grommet’s possibilities, many of the manufacturing people were dead set against it.
The Packard brothers founded the Packard Company in the late 19th century to produce carbon fil ament lamps and transformers. In 1899, the company moved into the fledgling automobile industry and began to produce automobiles. Eventually the automobile business was sold, but Packard continued to be a supplier of ignition systems. General Motors bought the Packard Company in 1932, and it became the Packard Electric Division of GM.
The management of the Packard Electric division had remained fairly autonomous through the years. In the first 90 years of its existence, Packard had only seven general managers. Although the ma jority of its sales were to GM divisions, it did receive significant business from other automobile companies.
During the 1980s, GM experienced significant competition—particularly from Japanese imports. GM’s share of the U.S. market had dropped from 45% in 1980 to about 34% in 1989. Despite its parent company’s problems, Packard Electric’s revenues and profitability grew steadily in the 1980s at a rate of 8-9% per year. This growth was attributed to two factors: increasing sales to other automobile manufac turers, and the growing electronic content of automobiles. By 1989, Packard had over $2 billion in sales, of which 25% was to non-GM customers.
In regards to the General Motors case, even after a full case analysis, where lies the greatest areas of uncertainty? What can be done to mitigate these areas of uncertainty?
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