By on December 25, 2010

Developing and manufacturing new cars is expensive. You need a lot of volume to amortize the cost. That’s why more and more Japanese automakers skip the development and manufacturing part altogether. They outsource both and slap their badge on someone else’s car. Last in that development has been Mitsubishi. Ten days ago, Nissan and Mitsubishi snuggled closer and added more OEM deals to the ones they already had. Yesterday, it was announced that Suzuki would supply subcompact vans to Mitsubishi.

Suzuki will supply its latest 1.2 liter subcompact van Solio to Mitsubishi, which will start selling them as a yet unnamed Mitsubishi vehicle beginning in spring 2011. Just another OEM deal? Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun sees a bigger picture.

The paper notes that “Mitsubishi is the third automaker that will sell Suzuki-manufactured cars as part of an OEM deal after Nissan and Mazda.” Then, the Yomiuri paper reminds the reader that there has been a similar deal between Toyota and Fuji Heavy, in which Toyota will produce future small  Subarus. The paper sees a trend: Consolidation, Japan style:

Through OEM partnerships, the nation’s auto industry is gradually reorganizing into three groups–Toyota (with Daihatsu and Fuji Heavy), Nissan (with Mitsubishi Motors Corp, Mazda Motor Corp. and Suzuki) and Honda, which is independent.

By keeping open relationships, things stay spiced-up and interesting. Note that the paper sees Suzuki in the Nissan (and hence Renault) camp, and no mention of Volkswagen, which owns not quite 20 percent of Suzuki and is already getting impatient.

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19 Comments on “Japan, The Land Of Open Relationships: Platform Swapping a Go-Go...”


  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Wow, it’s like a buffet.

  • avatar
    mdensch

    And they say politics makes for strange bedfellows.

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    well… 55,000 yen = ~usd$600
     
    what do i get for that? any 3 of those girls and a tub of crisco?
     
    but seriously… platform sharing is no big deal even for larger RWD cars where driving dynamics comes into it… i would argue it is largely irrelevant on van, SUV and and fwd car platforms
     
    does it really matter that all the vans are actually the same underneath?
     
    also your note about Honda being alone raises many questions… they don’t make commericals and are pretty crap at SUVs and vans… and even worse on motors (whither direct injection? turbos? diesels?)… one might question what going alone means in the broader picture

  • avatar
    obbop

    Interesting pondering within the comments above.

  • avatar
    Dimwit

    Those 3 groups are interesting to say the least. Is this just an OEM parts/IP sharing thing or will it mean further ties? And what of exports? There’s always been quite the disconnect between the home market and the rest of the world for the Japanese builders from things like the Kei cars to whole technologies that never see the light of day anywhere else.

    It’s amusing to read the complaint of Honda in the above post. Just because they don’t have the tech in N/A doesn’t mean that they don’t make it anywhere else. Honda is a very conservative company and the total opposite of Mazda. Mazda has a way of spewing out innovation willy-nilly a lot of times to their own detriment while Honda will build something on their own turf for 5 years and totally work all the bugs out before even announcing it to the world. Perfection takes time and can be frustrating but a noble goal, nevertheless.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      Agreed.  Why blow your load early on when you don’t have to?  Honda’s next versions of all their cars will bring out the new technology while making it dead reliable*.   People scream about Honda not meeting the fuel economy of the compacts or the small CUVs, but Consumer Reports tests show the differences in fuel economy to be minimal or reversed.  I get the feeling that Honda tunes their vehicles for drivability and returning consistent performance all the time while other OEMs are in fuel economy wars that make the cars miserable to drive or inconsistent for fuel economy when you step slightly outside the EPA test conditions.  Honda is an engineering company first and foremost.  They’ll be alright.
       
      * Early-mid ’00 5AT notwithstanding & have you seen some of the issues that come along with DI and TDI?

    • 0 avatar

      Irrespective of transmission woes? Or always insufficient brakes?

      Just sayin’…

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      Marcelo – show me an OEM and I’ll be able to find a poorly designed product.  Every maker has a turd or two.  As far as brakes, almost all OEM brakes are insufficient.

    • 0 avatar

      Hi Quentin:

       I get the feeling that Honda tunes their vehicles for drivability and returning consistent performance all the time while other OEMs are in fuel economy wars that make the cars miserable to drive or inconsistent for fuel economy when you step slightly outside the EPA test conditions.  Honda is an engineering company first and foremost.
      This I agree with. And its better than most.

       Honda’s next versions of all their cars will bring out the new technology while making it dead reliable*.  
      This, not so much.

      show me an OEM and I’ll be able to find a poorly designed product.  Every maker has a turd or two.
      This I more than agree. It’s fact.

      As far as brakes, almost all OEM brakes are insufficient.
      Most have much improved. Some lag behind. Why is that Honda, so excellent in almost all other aspects (no argument there), pretty much always seems to lag here?

    • 0 avatar
      Dimwit

      >>Marcelo – show me an OEM and I’ll be able to find a poorly designed product.  Every maker has a turd or two.  As far as brakes, almost all OEM brakes are insufficient.<<

      Look at VW. Their OEM brakes are some of the best in the world. And it IS OEM. Go aftermarket and it’s fraught with peril. VW knows what it’s doing when it comes to brakes.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      I haven’t driven enough Hondas to say if they have an automaker wide brake issue.  The current gen Civic and 2000 Civic Si I drove seemed fine for daily driving.  I’ve heard of current gen Accord brakes wearing out quickly but no complaints of their function for daily driving.
      My 07 GTI’s brakes were good, firm, and consistant.  Too bad the rest of the car left me shaking my head and saying “really?  this broke already?  really?!?”

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    I missed the part where Mazda got hooked-up with Nissan.  Last I knew, and this was about 5 years ago, Mazda bought some kind of previous gen C or C/D size wagon from Nissan and sold it as a kind of utility/service vehicle, but simultaneously bought at least half-a-dozen Kei-class vehicles from Suzuki (some that come to mind, Carol, Scrum Van, Scrum Wagon, Scrum truck, Laputa, and more.)  Has something bigger occurred since the Ford equity-participation draw-down?  (Or is Shimbun prognosticating?)

  • avatar
    fincar1

    It’s interesting that rafflesia, a Malaysian flowering fungus chiefly noted for its foul odor, would be the name for a website like the one shown….

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    I missed the part where Mazda got hooked-up with Nissan. 

    Last I knew, and this was about 5 years ago, Mazda bought some kind of previous gen C or C/D size wagon from Nissan and sold it as a kind of utility/service vehicle, but simultaneously bought at least half-a-dozen Kei-class vehicles from Suzuki (some that come to mind, Carol, Scrum Van, Scrum Wagon, Scrum truck, Laputa, and more.)  Has something bigger occurred since the Ford equity-participation draw-down?  (Or is Shimbun prognosticating?)

  • avatar
    L'avventura

    For Japanese mini/kei-cars Suzuki has always had an OEM sort of deal with a lot of manufacturers.  The reason is that kei cars are simply unprofitable and most of the parts are standardized by law, the cars dimensions, 660cc engine inline-3, everything.  So this is nothing new.
     
    What the Japanese need to do is parts and platform share between all their major cars overseas.  We may see a Mitsubishi-Nissan alliance, Toyota using the flat-4 engine in their FT86.  But it shouldn’t stop there.
     
    A Nissan-Toyota truck tie-up, a Mazda should share their Sky-G, Sky-D engine technology with other Japanese makers in exchange for other technology (Mazda’s Sky engines are amazing because both the diesel and gasoline are near identical and share most parts between the two versions).  Toyota could also supply V6, V8s to Mazda, Mitsubishi, etc. Even Honda could probably benefit from V8 for their Acura shared with another makers.
     
    The fact that this ‘open-relationship’ only extends to kei cars that are irrelevent outside of Japan is the real shame.

  • avatar
    Stingray

    In the end, the difference will be the “skin” and the calibration.

  • avatar

    Living somewhere that gets shiploards of used Jap cars imported this has obviously been going on for years Mazdas badged as Hondas Isuzus badged Honda Rovers badged Honda  Mazda vans badged Nissan Subaru legacy badged Isuzu the lists are endless but they all share 1 important item Appalling handling Jap/US comfort suspension is crap where the local new versions of the same cars corner and handle ok Jap imports are lethal. Hopefully with their new skin deep cars somebody teaches these idiots some proper suspension engineering.


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