Cultures have characteristics. Their products have characteristics, too. Differences between cultures means differences between product characteristics.
Germany is not a resource-abundant society. And throughout its centuries-old history it has experienced times of acute shortages. These experiences have left their stamp on the German product philosophy, which considers efficiency a key charateristic of any physical product. Efficient in its development and manufacturing, as well as in its use. Germans strive to achieve more with less.
The United States remains today one of the resource-richest countries in the world. Although efficiency is among the key characteristics of any product, Americans focus less on the conservation of material and of energy. Output almost always outweighs efficiency.
An intelligent product in the German culture goes beyond fulfilling its purpose as a tool or instrument. An intelligent product thinks with, in the sense of anticipating how a human being puts that product to work. An intelligent product is more than just the extension of its user. It can, and should, in some cases anticipate its user.
For Americans products are meant to be tools or instruments. An intelligent product makes work and life easier. It expands possibilities. Intelligent products execute precisely the commands of the user. No more, no less. Most importantly, an intelligent product is easy to use. It is intuitively understood.
From the German perspective a product should never break down. It should be 100% reliable. Not only the German engineer thinks this, but also the German consumer. Germans are perfectionists. A reliable product, like a reliable person, delivers on it promise.
For Americans a reliable product functions well under adverse conditions. If it has problems, the supplier reacts promptly with good service, at minimum additional cost via the warranty, and at minimum inconvenience by offering a replacement product.
Germans prefer products which will last a long time. And for which they will pay a higher price. A durable product reduces replacement cost. It is also an indication of solid craftsmanship and the correct use of material. Durability is a sign of consistency, quality, of tradition and continuity. Durable products stand the test of time.
For Americans durability is relative. Products don‘t last forever. Change is, however, a constant. Products must adapt to the changing needs of customers. Americans value durability, but within a more narrow scope.
For Germans quality is primarily technical. In the sense of the four product characteristics mentioned above and others. They strive to go beyond the expectations and standards of the market. In every German engineer you‘ll find a scientist, an inventor, a tinkerer, in some ways also an artist. Quality is of such importance that it is not immediately placed in relation to price.
For Americans quality is always a function of price. In fact, in the U.S. market it‘s all about value, about the relation of performance to price. Quality, in the technical sense, is an important product characteristic. But it is only one of several characteristics.