As you know, TTAC has been following the modularization trend in the industry with great interest. At TTAC, you received an early heads-up on Volkswagen’s MQB kit architecture four years ago, and we followed it ever since. TTAC was one of the first to tell you that Toyota is working on its own kit architecture, called “Toyota New Global Architecture,” TNGA for short. More than a year ago, we told you about Nissan’s Common Module Family (CMF). Now, everybody is talking about kits and modules. Let’s talk a little more.
Yesterday, the Renault/Nissan Alliance formally announced what you had known for more than a year: That it will base future generations of their cars on “a Common Module Family (CMF,) an engineering architecture that covers Renault/Nissan Alliance vehicles, from one or more segments, based on the assembly of compatible Big Modules: engine bay, cockpit, front underbody, rear underbody and electrical/electronic architecture.”
Let’s cover a few things that may went overlooked.
Nissan/Renault is going to great pains to underline that “CMF is not a platform.” Technically less astute may not know the difference, and the kit-have-nots eagerly exploit this lack of know-how.
Again: A kit and its modules are not a platform by another name. You build on a platform, but you build with kits. Their modules plug together. Or as Nissan/Renault says: “A platform is a horizontal segmentation; a CMF is a cross-sector concept.”
A lot has been said about the phenomenal savings these kit architectures bring, and some said this is hype. It is important to understand where the savings are. Nissan/Renault expect a “20%-30% cost reduction in component purchasing.” And they hope for a “30-40% cost reduction in product + process engineering.” In other words: Some parts that go in a car should cost less, and the upfront development costs will be reduced. The car itself will not cost 30 percent less to produce.
A year ago, the people I talked to at Nissan already had said that government demands on safety and fuel efficiency raise the cost of a car, and that the savings from standardization pay for compliance with government rules.
New kit architectures also demand new factories – or completely rebuilt ones. Nissan/Renault stress that CMF is united with AIMS, a.k.a. the “Alliance Integrated Manufacturing System.” This process, says Nissan/Renault, “enables the same product to be manufactured at several different sites or many products to be manufactured at a single site. It simplifies planning, facilitates management, enables adjustments to global capacity and lowers entry costs.”
In other words: You no longer dedicate a plant to a car, you dedicate it to the kit architecture.
Interestingly, the first plant geared up for CMF will be Nissan’s new plant in Chennai, India, where, even more interestingly, the first new budget priced Datsuns will roll off the assembly line next month – and with it the beginnings of a new global small car.
Having covered the road to kits for the last four years, TTAC will hit the road and be in Chennai when the plant opens. TTAC will also be in Wolfsburg this coming week to hear more about Volkswagen’s MQB, MLB, MSB kit architectures (and maybe, report from the back seat of the Golf GTD, and the XL-1 – if it would have a back seat.)
Our jetlag, your gain.