Betamax revisited in diesel engines.

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As recent troubles of a US truck manufacturer demonstrate, boldness in innovation can fail and lead to disastrous consequences. Joann Muller from "FORBES" magazine tells the story in a series of articles.
In 2001 the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced new air quality regulations to become gradually effective starting in 2007, with all manufacturers of diesel engines having to redesign their machinery. With one exception they opted for improving a system of selective catalytic reduction. Illinois based Navistar, a company with a turnover of US$ 14 bn, however decided to try to engineer a new system based on exhaust gas circulation. The decision was pushed by its CEO against the technical expertise of the company’s engineers and lower management who admittedly just did not know how to design it. The CEO not only put these doubts aside as “negative thinking”, but rather he announced publicly the competitive edge the engine would bring around. However, the miracle of a clean new engine did not happen and the company is now unable to meet the new EPA standards. Faced with a fine of US$ 3,744 for each engine sold, the company is forced to buy alternative engines from a competitor. As a result the CEO was ousted and his successor promised a shakeup of the company.
If the new engine had been developed, the CEO would probably have become a much discussed and honored innovator. It would not have been the first time engineers were inspired to step outside the boundaries of their craft by non specialist innovators. Driving engineers over their barriers was one of the late Steve Jobs’ greatest talents; however, in this case no glory was earned. Many years went by and it remains a mystery as to why it took corporate leadership so long to realize that under the given conditions this project could not succeed.