Specifically, the Dreamliner's lithium-ion batteries had been shown in rare circumstances to catch fire. Though I'm sure a degree of thermal testing was probably done prior to manufacturing of the batteries, the recent problems encountered by Boeing point out the importance of virtual testing, and doing so earlier in the design process. The FAA has just recently lifted a 3 month ban on Dreamliner flights, and Boeing has stationed 300 workers on 10 teams around the world to do the work of replacing the defective units with a revamped battery system that's better insulated against a short circuit.
So let's do some math here - it's said that it will take about five days to install the revamped lithium-ion battery system on each plane, so 5 days of rework with 300 workers salaries at double the minimum wage would be close to $180k. But that PALES in comparison to other stats, such as Quantas Airlines' scrubbed purchase of a single Dreamliner (they're estimated to be $207 million SRP), and Japan's largest airline's cancellation of 3,600 Dreamliner flights.
Here's another costly example of "failing late" - Microsoft's XBOX 360. There have been over 60 million sold since 2005, and it continues to be a big seller. However, early customer surveys indicated that over 42% of the consoles had to be repaired or replaced by Microsoft due to some level of failure.
|Remember the RROD (Red Ring of Death)?|
Early XBOX systems often encountered conditions that caused them to overheat, thus the Red Ring of Death. Microsoft took a second look at the problem, extended their warranty coverage from 1-3 years, and after a class action lawsuit in 2007 and almost $1 billion, they've managed to reduce the failure rates and remain a viable player in the home video game industry. However, most companies couldn't afford a billion dollar mistake.
A common line I hear from companies when I ask them about product testing is either "oh, we have some calculations we use, and they almost always fit the need", or, "we just overbuild to make sure it can take whatever our customers throw at it".