This paper points out the features of finite element methods that allow design cycle improvements. One of the most important of these features is that models can be constructed, tested, revised, and retested faster and at less cost in the computer than in the laboratories. This allows evaluation of more proposals and sensitivity studies than might not otherwise be feasible. Another feature is the level of confidence that can be put into the results. An illustration is presented of how finite element methods improve a typical design cycle in the automotive industry.