As automakers scramble to create showrooms of new electric and software-driven vehicles, suppliers find themselves racing to develop the parts and systems to make them possible.
Those shorter development cycles could lead to a rise in costly recalls if automakers and their suppliers aren't careful, said Dan Rustmann, co-chair of Detroit law firm Butzel Long's global automotive group.
"Historically, when a new vehicle launches, the engineering of all the components takes many years, and there's significant engineering and validation that goes into every single part," Rustmann, whose firm represents many suppliers, told Automotive News. "But with compressed timetables, there's a greater probability we'll encounter quality issues. And the recall data seems to bear that out."
Indeed, software is already the industry's trouble spot. According to data gathered by Ernst & Young, recalls have been costing the industry $40 billion to $50 billion annually in recent years. And more than 40 percent of that is related to software.
As vehicles become more software-driven and connected, and suppliers are asked to speed things up, glitches are sure to pile up higher.
The complexity of today's environment is "massive," Dean Phillips, a managing director in Ernst & Young's advanced manufacturing and mobility practice, told an audience at SAE's World Congress in Detroit last month.
"We're suffering the pain of having this fragmented architecture in vehicles with perhaps 100-plus ECUs from different suppliers, developed by different teams with different standards, different protocols and different networking challenges," he said.
And the challenges extend beyond infotainment displays and other software-driven features.
"If you look at the breakdown on recalls, they really get into the space of the powertrain and the functionally safe domains in the vehicle," Phillips said.