Most large automakers are working on a modular architecture of some sort. Farthest ahead appears to be Volkswagen, which already is rolling out new car after new car on one of four related kit architectures, and which is rumored to be working on one master kit. The other day, Toyota showed me glimpses of its new kit architecture, first cars to be expected in 2015. Today, GM showed us this chart. And there are no kits on it.
From Nissan to Volvo, everybody seems to be working on some kind of a kit architecture that dispenses with the old platform model and is working towards the holy grail of modern carmaking, a box of universal Legos that quickly snap together without having to redesign the blocks again and again. One company appears to be horrifically far behind in that race, and the company is GM. GM isn’t even in the race. GM is trying to reduce its huge number of platforms, and it will be trying long into the next decade.
Last time we looked, two years ago, GM announced plans to slim down its obese portfolio of platforms, by shrinking the number of “Core Architectures” to 24, which will serve 62 percent of GM’s output. By comparison, more than 60 percent of Volkswagen Group’s output will be served by MQB alone, and the rest by MLB, MSB, and NFS. By 2018, GM wanted to shrink the number of global architectures to 14, serving 90 percent of the volume.
Yesterday, during its Global Business Conference Call , GM gave a report on where it stands in terms of architectures. The plan (see above) appears to be largely intact, however, it is moving in the wrong direction. Instead of 24 architectures in 2014, there now are 25. Instead of 14 architectures by 2018, there now are 17.
There appears to be some relabeling going on. The “regional architectures” that were supposed to be gone by 2018, are back.
Whatever you call them, “core,” or “regional,” “platforms,” or “architectures,” the fact is that according to this plan, GM will enter the next decade on a mess of disparate platforms, while GM’s main competitors have been long building cars from kits, are faster to market, build faster and for less money, and are addressing small niches without reinventing all four wheels. By that time, the mess of platforms will emerge as the mother of all legacies at GM.