More of such balance in reliability and durability would be nice in modern products. Many products are annoying because some parts fail much earlier and more often than others, until finally these parts are no longer available and the whole product is junked.
But there is another type of balance, having more to do with quality. The photo is of my wife Marian in her 2004 Acura TSX, leaving early in the morning to control the world. We bought the car new to make up for a beloved Honda CRX that she drove for 18 years, until an evil person roared out of a driveway and destroyed it. She didn’t want a big car, needed to drive grand-kids and friends around, likes nimble and responsive cars, and at times can be a mild hot-rodder. The TSX is neither the fastest, the most beautiful, the most luxurious, the roomiest, or the best handling automobile available, but it is pretty good on all fronts. She has loved it absolutely for eight years. For her (and actually for me) it is an extraordinary blend. It is based on the so-called European Accord body (a bit smaller than the Accord sold in the U.S.) It has front wheel drive and the engine produces about 200 horsepower and is easy on fuel. It goes faster than either of us needs it to and is fitted with plenty of digital gadgets—Navigation system, climate control, sound system— but not so many that we will die messing with them while driving (a friend of mine has ceded the driving to his wife while he attends to the much more elaborate navigation system, the cell phones, the doors and windows, the TV, the climate control and sound system, and so on.) The TSX is also clearly a product of Honda, and we have always liked such things.
I spoke of David Garvin’s now classic article in the Nov 1, 1987 Harvard Business Review, entitled “Competing on the Eight Dimensions of Quality” in my post of Nov. 1, 2012. The dimensions he discusses are performance, features, reliability, conformance, durability, serviceability, aesthetics, and perceived quality. The TSX gets high grades on all of them. In my book Good Products, Bad Products, I discuss performance and cost, human fit, craftsmanship, emotional response, aesthetics, cultural fit, and global fit. The TSX also gets high grades on all of them.
In the design, development, and marketing of many products, we often tend to emphasize only a few components of quality. These days we are excited about digital control. I just bought a new dishwasher. Since the old one failed in its rather complicated control circuitry, and since I couldn’t find replacement parts that I considered reasonably priced, I bought a new one with the fewest cycles and options I could find. I finally found one with only(?) five possible cycles, three options, a delay, and a large row of warning lights. Of course, we only use the “normal” button. The dishwasher will probably fail because of the circuitry necessary to allow it to do something we don’t ever use. As people used to say when I worked at the Jet Propulstion Lab, “Reliability is fewer parts”—that's electrical as well as mechanical.
Good Products should rate high in all components of quality—just like the One Hoss Shay did in reliability and durability.