Automotive body designs are frequently categorized according to the number of doors, the arrangement of seats, and the roof structure. Automobile roofs are conventionally supported by pillars on each side of the body. Convertible models with retractable fabric tops rely on the pillar at the side of the windshield for upper body strength, as convertible mechanisms and glass areas are essentially nonstructural. Glass areas have been increased for improved visibility and for aesthetic reasons.
The high cost of new factory tools makes it impractical for manufacturers to produce totally new designs every year. Completely new designs usually have been programmed on three- to six-year cycles with generally minor refinements appearing during the cycle. In the past, as many as four years of planning and new tool purchasing were needed for a completely new design. Computer-aided design (CAD), testing by use of computer simulations, and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) techniques may now be used to reduce this time requirement by 50 percent or more. See