By on June 13, 2013

gmkits

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.

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98 Comments on “The Kit Race: You Have To Be In It To Win It – And GM Ain’t...”


  • avatar
    Sundowner

    I don’t know if it’s wrong or right to follow these kit architecture approaches. On one hand, you might save a few bucks in inventory and R&D costs, but I think it was discussed on here before that it’s not that much. On the other hand, having one universal design scheme is a HUGE liability if something goes wrong. Recalls for, say a bad control arm on your ENTIRE PRODUCT RUN could destroy the earnings report. Multiple designs spreads the risk. Also keep in mind that premium shoppers are not stupid. Thanks to VW’s MLB kit, an Audi A4 is arguably the same car as an Audi A6, but for $20k more. What are you getting for $20k? another 100 lbs of sheet metal and some more enclosed air. Sound’s like a crappy deal to me.

    • 0 avatar
      Stumpaster

      Um, premium shoppers are typically stupid when it comes to figuring out the difference between engines, trannies and architectures. Because they don’t care!

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      So how is Honda and Toyota’s convertibles doing these days? Oh, they don’t sell them. Or how is the delivery van or the duelly rear end pick up market for Honda and Toyota? They don’t make anything in this segment either?

      What foreign company competes with GM at every level?

    • 0 avatar
      wmba

      The Toyota MC20 platform underpins everything from the Corolla to the Highlander and the corresponding Lexuses.

      Google it.

      If anything, VW is chasing Toyota in the platform stakes. Also an Audi A6 comes with a very nice V6 engine, the A4 with a pedestrian 4.

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      The Ford Contour and Mercury Mystake were epic “world car” Ford Mondeo failures. Too small for US market and way way overpriced.

      Now Ford is doing the reverse, the US Fusion is the new Mondeo. Can a mass market brand like Ford compete in the executive class with that? Especially when hobbled with the Ecoboost engines?

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Isn’t it too early to declare kits the winner? It seems to me that we should be able to advance design and engineering techniques to keep purpose-built platforms competitive… and a good chance that a purpose-built platform will be a better, more efficient vehicle for its particular mission.

    GM may be in trouble here, especially if they don’t have state-of-the-art product development processes. But I don’t think it’s a given.

  • avatar
    Rday

    Why is this all a surprise. GM just needs to get out of the automotive market. They need to ‘go away’ to a distant planet and meditate about the pain they have caused countless millions of well intentioned customers. They created this mess and they deserve it. Nuff said.

  • avatar
    Ron

    You save more than a few bucks in inventory and R&D. Bringing a new platform to market can cost over $1 billion. Eliminating platforms can bring more engineers to bear on a given problem (so there is less risk of a control arm problem), substantially reduce the cost of tools & dies, lower the cost of purchased parts (larger orders), and use less labor (as “best practices” learned in one plant can be transferred to other plants building essentially the same chassis).

    As far as whether or not premium shoppers are stupid, it has been widely known for years that the Lexus 350 was really a Camry, the Audi A4 was really a Golf, etc., yet these cars were quite successful.

    • 0 avatar

      To stay with the control arm example, you can test 50 different control arms a little bit, or you can test one control arm a hell of a lot.

      Also, most problems are in the interaction of different parts, and rarely in the breakdown of one discrete part. By minimizing the numbers of possible interactions, the chances for failures are minimized.

      • 0 avatar
        orick

        Once the MBA’s figure it out, it will be testing one control arm a little bit.

      • 0 avatar
        J.Emerson

        “Also, most problems are in the interaction of different parts, and rarely in the breakdown of one discrete part.”

        Balderdash. Most mechanical failures in modern cars are easily traced to one component or another. And with the regularity of modern manufacturing, they tend to happen in broad pattern failures that are usually evident after several years. I understand that a car is a complex mechanism with many moving parts, but obvious cost-cutting and blatant poor engineering choices are the number-one driver of mechanical failures as far as I can reckon, not nebulous “interactions.” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that plastic electronic water pumps (BMW), chintzy window regulators (VW), nylon screws and el cheapo resistors (Toyota), cut-rate distributors (Honda), plastic intake manifolds (GM), and however many other examples, were conscious decisions to put junk in cars. They weren’t “mistakes.”

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      Not only this, but there are several other major advantages:

      1. Improved assembly flexibility and efficiencies
      2. Less training required, increased employee flexibility
      3. Logistical simplification
      4. Fewer unique stamps/presses/procedures for assembly

      Last item, and not to pick nits, but the A4 and Golf never shared a platform. A3 and Golf, or Passat and A4, yes.

    • 0 avatar
      CelticPete

      The A3 is the Golf – not the A4. An A4 features a center differential and a 40/60 torque split. The A3 has a tacked on Haldex AWD system (that admittedly still works pretty well)..

      FWIW people DO know about the parts carryover.. This “Premium buyers are idoits’ is just jealousy. The guys who buy BMWs tend to know something about cars – otherwise they would just buy a Civic.

      • 0 avatar
        Ron

        CelticPete is right. The A3 is based on the Golf, not the A4. My mistake was because the A4 was originally based on the engineering concept of the Volkswagen Golf Mk1.

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          In what way? The Golf had a transverse engine. The A4 engine was longitudinal, just like decades of Audis that had come before it. Even in the US, you could buy an Audi 100LS over forty years ago. The A4 is a direct descendent of the Audi 80 that was introduced in 1966(F103) with the same layout, itself basically an even earlier DKW fitted with a 4-stroke engine for the first time. The second generation Audi 80(B1) came to the US in 1973 as the Audi Fox, before the Golf reached production with a different layout. The 3rd generation(B2) was sold here as the 4000. The 4th generation(B3 and B4 once facelifted in 1991) came here as the 80 and 90. The 80 was replaced by the A4(B6), but the layout can trace its origins to the days before Audis were called Audis.

          • 0 avatar
            glyphics

            True. People still carry on about Audi being rebranded VWs but this has never been true.

            Most of Audis platforms originated within Audi and migrated to the VW. Only the Audi A3 and TT were based on a VW platform. VW appropriated the Audi A4 platform to use for the Passat. The A6 platform was never shared and the aluminum A8 platform was only shared with VW and Bentley in its steel version. Audi has always been the engineering driver within the VW Group.

            Things will change a bit with the new MLB/MQB platforms but Audi still distinguishes themselves from VW by engineering better weight distribution from their version of the FWD architecture. Audis, except for the models mentioned above, have never been and will not be badge-engineered Volkswagens.

            Some Lexus models are indeed Toyotas with new clothes but the Lexus brand was introduced and made its reputation with a dedicated RWD car, the Lexus LS, that had no counterpart in Toyota showrooms. Somebody tell Ford.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            The Lexus brand only existed in the US back then. Those RWD cars were sold as Toyotas everywhere else they were sold. I don’t find there to be a huge fundamental difference between the really nice Camrys of the early 90s and an LS400. One is a natural upmarket evolution of the other, and both are fundamentally TOYOTAs to the core. The LS400 (Toyota Celsior) was not/is not even the top of the line Toyota – the Century is!

            IMHO, the real Lexus innovation in the US was the customer service, not the car. They introduced @ss-kissing vs. German arrogance.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            “I don’t find there to be a huge fundamental difference between the really nice Camrys of the early 90s and an LS400.”

            Sure, they were fundamentally TOYOTAS, which is why they were instantly recognized as the best premium luxury cars the world had to offer. They had the Germans talking to themselves. Toyota leveraged the credibility bestowed by crushing the 7-series and S-class to focus on volume luxury cars like the ES and RX, but they showed just how easy it was for them to build faster, quieter, more luxurious, and longer lasting cars than the Germans could in a segment the Germans had had to themselves for twenty years.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            @CJinSD

            But Toyota has never managed to crack “desirability”. They ultimately never created better Mercedes-Benzs or BMWs, they created better Buicks.

            People still lust after w126s, nobody lusts after an LS400 but denizens of BHPH lots.

            Nice cars, but not special. And really, really not great cars to drive.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            I had an SC400 as a company car back in the day. I didn’t like the way it drove at all, particularly compared to the BMWs I had at the time. You know what? It drove better than what passes for a BMW today. The better Buick thing is pure revisionism anyway. They sold for huge markups during their first two years of production, meaning transaction prices right there with the 735i’s and 420SELs they beat in comparison tests. They went 150 mph when only the 750iL was faster. Today’s BMWs are more like the Buicks of the ’50s then the LS400 was like a modern Buick. Maybe that’s because the Chinese market today’s BMWs are designed for is as optimistic and naive as the American market that bought fins and space age monikers.

          • 0 avatar
            J.Emerson

            I’m not really sure how the LS 400 “crushed” the 7 series and the S class, when those cars still sell in volumes that Lexus could only dream of for the LS. Maybe they, too, are still stuck on the delusion that “reliability” is what sells luxury cars.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            The original LS400 was better than the 7 or S in every metric. Americans bought 42,806 of them in the first model year, a volume that nobody thought existed for premium cars in the US at the time. Imagine if the Hyundai Genesis had shown up and been better in ever way than the existing premium luxury cars and the magazines lauded it as such. Pretend Hyundai had an unmatched reputation for quality. That’s basically what happened in 1990 with the LS400.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            CJinSD, I don’t know when or how BMW pissed in your cornflakes, but you really need to give it a rest. “BMWs today are like Buicks of the ’50s”? Seriously? Get a grip man! I will admit that today’s 3-series is yesterday’s 5-series, but I’m a heck of a lot bigger than I was 20 years ago too, and time has marched on in what is expected of a car in that class.

            Lexus made a splash because they were new and cheap and had GREAT dealers. I’m not even so sure Toyota HAD that great of a reputation in the Northern half of the country, around here they were mostly known for rust and being lousy in snow (since most were RWD until the early-80s). I suppose things were different in California.

            And I ask again, where are they now? Oh yeah, nowhere. Lexus can hardly sell a car outside the US, and the Germans are slaughtering them here! Fabulous. They just don’t quite have “it”.

          • 0 avatar
            hreardon

            Lexus and Acura came about at a time when the domestic automakers were in a real funk and the Germans had really developed a reputation for junk reliability. The new Japanese luxury brands filled a need for reliable, plush transportation and they did it by applying their formula for the mass market to the upper end market. The best part was that they were able to do it at a price point that made them a substantial bargain over the comparable German product. Every other car on the road in my suburban neighborhood during the early to mid 90s was a Lexus or Acura.

            The problem for the Japanese is that in the last seven years or so the Germans got their act together and realized that if they are going to compete heavily in the US (especially as their brands move downmarket), they needed to pay more attention to reliability statistics and JD Powers.

            For all their arrogance, Volkswagen and Audi have made substantial improvements over the late 90s – mid ’00s product. BMW has too, and while trailing, Merc has more or less kept pace. To their credit, they realized that they were not going to survive and prosper without making those improvements and catering to the North American audience.

            Meanwhile, across the Pacific the Acuras and Lexuses of the world thought that they could just continue along selling nice, reliable, comfortable luxury sedans and US buyers would be content. It’s not so much that there’s a problem with those Japanese luxo-cars, it’s that the competition got vastly better in the interim and also were far more interesting and compelling product. Chalk that up to marketing or the product, it was no longer enough to just be a Lexus.

            I’ve mentioned this before, but Volvo is a great example of the trap that companies can fall into: Volvo has always had good product and developed a strong brand identity as being THE car you drove for safety. Unfortunately for Volvo the world moved ahead and just about every car in the industry matched or surpassed Volvo in safety. They never successfully evolved their brand identity and as a result are stuck in this quasi-limbo state where potential customers think: yeah, it’s a nice car, buuuut…..

            If you cannot give customers a unique value proposition you’re going to be stuck in limbo and die from a thousand cuts. I think that VW’s North American operations are actually in danger of falling into this situation with regard to the current Passat and Jetta. While they’re decent product, there are so many better choices out there right now that it’s hard to recommend the VW. The plateauing of Jetta and Passat sales shows that VW has a way to go – and they better move fast or risk being run over.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        The guys who buy BMWs know something about Bluetooth headsets, and want a car which represents such knowledge.

  • avatar
    graham

    Oh please…any article here involving GM is questionable to begin with, but this is just laughable criticism.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    What, exactly, is the difference between a “Platform” and a “Kit”? You certainly see “Platforms” being used on very different designs, so I’m not sure how something crosses into “kit” territory.

    Nevertheless, I can see advantages (and disadvantages) to having 4 vs. 17 structures to build on. (However, I’d like to point out that some of those platforms in GM’s diagram are in markets that VW simply does not have an entry, and has no plan to, like full-size pickups, commercial vans, etc.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Given the teething problems GM generally has every time they introduce something completely new why should anyone push them to go fast?

    If they can do things slowly, methodically, and not eff it up then slow and steady might win the race.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      If kits work (an assertion I don’t necessarily endorse), they confer competitive advantage. The risk to GM in moving slowly is that they’ll be roadkill by the time they get to kits.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        My argument is simply that if a GM executive walked into engineering tomorrow morning and said: “Damn it boys, we’re going to match VW in kit architecture and do it by 2018!” that would be a sure recipe for disaster on the level not seen since the Vega and the X-cars.

        Or as you brought up perhaps GM management is not convinced that kits are the answer either.

        • 0 avatar
          sunridge place

          Perhaps there’s a meeting today about how a former ad guy in the car business who has a blog is telling them they are doomed.

        • 0 avatar
          KixStart

          I see what you’re getting at, PrincipalDan.

          Still, that might be preferable to letting VW gain significant competitive advantage by 2018 with “kits” and then having a GM exec walk into engineering early one morning in 2019 and say, “Damn it, boys, we’re going to match VW in kit architecture and do it by 2020!”

  • avatar
    ABankThatMakesCars

    The idiocracy continues.

    All GM problems and failures can be blamed on GM Finance.

    • 0 avatar

      disagree, it’s the marketing causing the problem.

      • 0 avatar
        SherbornSean

        GM’s failures have many causes. But if over 30 years the same dynamic is in place, you have to look at fundamentals.

        Coke is popular because people like it more than Pepsi. The Yankees attract great talent. Microsoft makes one hell of an office productivity suite. Boeing makes great planes.

        And GM doesn’t build great cars.

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        I hope you define “marketing” as including, “What do we build?”

        I have read “Return to greatness” and it’s not a “marketing” program, it’s a “sales” program. Which is fine but if “sales” are the problem, find out what Toyota or Nissan is doing for “sales” and copy that.

        • 0 avatar
          J.Emerson

          Who’d want to copy Toyota’s sales program at this point? Their marketshare is declining.

          If you want to copy anybody, copy Hyundai. Nissan wasn’t a bad suggestion, though.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            One swallow doesn’t make a summer. Last year Toyota was up massively and everyone else was making excuses. Long term trends suggest that Toyota has the path for success. Other companies rise and fall, but Toyota plods along in good financial health, staving off whatever the US government can throw at it and brief growth periods of lower quality manufacturers. They don’t build VWs or Excels. They don’t need every new customer to the market, because they retain most of the ones they have and the others will come around after making a few mistakes based on bad information.

      • 0 avatar
        ABankThatMakesCars

        Oh Buickman here we go with your return to greatness plan. Having worked for GM in Finance on vehicle programs I think I have more knowledge on this than you.

        Your Return to Greatness plan only addresses marketing from the dealer perspective. Finance at GM drives everything. Why were the cars so bad in the 1980s and 1990s? Because GM Finance nickle and dimed everything. They wouldn’t let Engineering and Design spend any money. Everything became cookie cutter. A Pontiac 6000 was a Buick Century/Chevy Celebrity/Olds Ciera. This went on and still goes on to this day with the GMC Acadia/Chevy Traverse/Buick Enclave and eventually the Cadillac blah blah blah. Too many brands a marketing plan cannot fix.

        Your plan doesn’t look at the big picture.

        • 0 avatar
          sunridge place

          Just curious…would your solution be to eliminate Buick and GMC or spend the $$ to develop entirely unique 7/8 passenger crossovers for both Buick and GMC?

  • avatar
    icemilkcoffee

    Come on now- the VW line is pretty much all FWD and FWD based AWD passenger cars. The GM line is a full line that includes FWD, RWD, large trucks, compact trucks, large SUVs, all-out sports cars, and even mid engined sports cars at different times.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      Well, considering that Volkswagen comprises Porsche, MAN, Audi, Bugatti, and Lamborghini, I’m not sure what you’re driving at.

      Granted, GM does focus more on heavy duty trucks and SUVs, but they’ve developed or are working on kits for mid-engined, FWD, RWD and AWD vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      cacon

      Yeah, and outside the US market, FWD based cars is the volume that has more market share :)

      GM, Ford and Chrysler are still too dependent on trucks

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    The reason the Mazda Miata worked is that it wasn’t built on a “kit”. It was built on a low-volume rear-wheel drive chassis that wasn’t shared with a mainstream model. Therefore, it didn’t have the compromises that come with adapting a general frame for a specific purpose. The Miata didn’t have an excess of horsepower. It had just enough to keep things interesting. Ford tried and failed to compete with the Miata with the front-wheel drive Capri, which, ironically was built on a modified version of the platform used in the Mazda 323 and Mercury Tracer.

    • 0 avatar
      niky

      The Miata is a single product that sells without regional variations (except in terms of engine displacement… the US doesn’t get the lower-displacement and power models) globally. And it’s rather expensive for what you get. Which doesn’t matter that much since a Miata is not a “practical” purchase. It’s a toy. And people don’t worry as much about pricing for toys.

      Mainstream products either have to be globally sellable or easily tailored to market demands. And to reduce overhead costs to keep prices competitive, they need to spawn as many models off of shared engineering as possible.

      I’d say the Ford-Mazda collaboration showed how you could do this while still giving cars their own individual character. Now if only those cars didn’t weigh a ton…

      GM arguably does have a platform plan for its global models, though. The problem is that I don’t see much of their global mix as competitive enough. The new Colorado/Trailblazer platform is nice, but their global midsizer, the Captiva, is way too long in the tooth, the Spark trails the rest of the class, the Sonic is rather disappointingly dull and the Cruze… well, I like the Cruze, but they need to update it, as well.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        To bring up Mazda: the CX-5, 6, the incoming 3, & the next 2 all share on the same platform. Since the 5 is mostly a 3 underneath, its next iteration should be the same platform, too. Presumably, the next CX-9 will have an enlarged version of the platform while a possible CX-3 would be based on the 2.

        That’s everything in their line-up except the Miata (I’m ignoring the truck they sell in other markets) all based on the same platform. The RX-8 was based on the Miata, so it’s likely if they ever make an RX-9, it will share the Miata’s platform, too.

    • 0 avatar
      cacon

      The Mazda Miata is a niche market car, not a mainstream volume model.

      • 0 avatar

        But this observation strengthens Conslaw’s argument, doesn’t it? Miata is not all that expensive. If a niche model can be made with such small overhead where are the savings?

        BTW, if MX-5 does not work,then what about RAV4? It’s a bespoke platform and a volume model and again it’s not unduly expensive.

        One problem here is, we just do not have the data that kit proponents use to justify their strategems.

        • 0 avatar

          The NC Miata shares a platform with the RX-8. The first two generations were nearly FWD using a 323 platform until Mazda USA pushed hard for the rwd platform. The next one is going to be shared with Alfa/Fiat because apparently, Mazda can’t justify the cost of doing a bespoke platform on their own.

          • 0 avatar
            niky

            And I’d argue against the Miata not being all that expensive. Cheap for a sports car? Yes. Cheap for the hardware shared with the Mazda3 (and previously with with the lower-spec Familia/Protege models)? No.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Didn’t this have something to do with the Probe?

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      The Car and Driver that arrived the other day has an article about how Mazda needs a partner to share development costs going forward.

      The original Mazda Miata is a good example of what we’ll lose when every car is based on components compromised to work in everything from a 1.5 liter B-class sedan to a 5,000 lb CUV, but it wasn’t built in today’s regulatory environment. The cost to bring a car to market while meeting ever-changing safety, emissions, and consumption requirements has exploded like government spending.

      • 0 avatar
        J.Emerson

        Regulation isn’t what’s driving platform consolidation amongst automakers. It has much more to do with the increasing globalization of the auto market and the need to produce a flexible component set to satisfy the desires of many different markets. Regulatory compliance is a fairly small part of the development budget for any new platform.

        And I dispute that we’re going to “lose” cars like the Miata. If anything, the increasing affluence of consumers globally will present greater opportunities for amortizing niche platforms. If the Miata disappears, it will be because Mazda itself went bankrupt.

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          “If anything, the increasing affluence of consumers globally will present greater opportunities for amortizing niche platforms.”

          Is this a sunny description of the culling of less affluent consumers from the new car market?

          • 0 avatar
            J.Emerson

            No. It’s just an assessment of the new car market not constrained by inane political backspin.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          Regulatory costs do mount quickly. Especially when you’re trying to design a “global” car that has to meet very different requirments for different markets. Look at how most automakers are heavily lobbying the harmonization of standards between the US and Europe. It doesn’t represent peanuts to them.

          Also, with the new CAFE regs adding significant non-value added cost to the average vehicle (low balling EPA estimates 10%, SAE estimates more), automakers have to strip cost away from other areas to remain cost competitive. If you’re a large automaker, the best way to stay cost competitive is to use your economies of scale and build more of a design to defer cost.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      The Veyron isn’t part of VWs kit plans either… Nor are most of the Bentleys. Or the Lamborghinis. Which like the Miata, represent some infinitesimal share of their sales volume. There can always be the occasional outlier, but it won’t be a volume seller. Even if GM were to go kit-krazy, I bet the Corvette and the full-size trucks would stand alone.

  • avatar
    Glenn Mercer

    There is death, there are taxes, and the other sure thing is OEMs announcing platform consolidation. To wit:

    From 1992: “In short, GM’s goal is to get a better return on its enormous capital investment by running the place full-tilt and redesigning cars for more efficient manufacturing. Currently, the company makes seven small cars on three “platforms,” or chassis, that vary by only two inches in wheelbase length. By 1994, it will use a single small-car platform so that high-volume plants can build a wide mix of cars to meet changing demand.”

    From 2001: “General Motors Corp., the world’s largest automaker, is reducing the number of its global car platforms or “architectures” as it prefers to call them, from 13 to 7 by 2005. (It will keep all 6 of its light truck architectures through 2005.)”

    I will repeat the main points of my Platform Rant:

    As long as no one ever DEFINES a platform, discussion of reduction of platforms or models per platform or anything similar makes no sense. As long as we do not know what percentage of dimensions are shared by models across a platform, or what percentage of parts are shared among models on a platform, we can’t say anything useful.

    Which is “better:” having 3 platforms that underpin 4 models each, or 2 platforms that underpin 6 each? Is it better to have 5 models on one platform, with 60% parts commonality, than 4 models on 2, with 90% commonality? We can’t even begin to address the question without this kind of data.

    Car companies talking about model counts and platform counts and related topics are like people talking about their workout regime. I can announce today that I will go to the gym 5 times a week, instead of 3. Am I going to be more fit? What if my 3 times a week were for 2-hour aerobic workouts, and my 5 times are for 30 minutes each? Did I improve by going 2 more times a week?

    YEARS ago, Fiat and Toyota used to release good data on platforms. Such as “Our X platform generates 5 models, which are 64% common in parts count… and by the way, the new X platform has 40% of carryover parts from its predecessor T platform.” Without info like this, what’s the point?

    Argh.

    • 0 avatar
      ect

      And the platforms produce multiple types of vehicles – e.g. Taurus (car), Explorer (truck) and Flex (who knows?)

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        *Taurus (car), Explorer (car), Flex (car). Aren’t they all on the D3 or something…

        • 0 avatar
          ect

          For regulatory purposes, I believe Ford calls the Explorer a truck, not a car. I don’t know how they classify the Flex.

        • 0 avatar
          ect

          On further research, Ford considers the Explorer and the Flex to be trucks, not cars.

          Similarly, Chrysler always classified its minivans as trucks, though they shared a platform with cars (starting with the K-cars). I believe that most manufacturers call their minivans trucks, whether or not they were built on the same platforms as vehicles sold as cars.

          Hence, my point.

  • avatar
    sunridge place

    Lets try a game of ‘Name those 2018 Architectures’ based on the images.

    Biggest to smallest…global?

    1. Van
    2. Full Size Truck
    3. Small Truck
    4. Large Crossover
    5. large/mid size sedan/crossover (FWD/RWD)
    6. compact/crossover (FWD/RWD?)
    7. Subcompact
    8. ?
    9. ?
    10. ?
    11. ?
    12?
    13.?

    Regional ones?
    Corvette?

    I give up

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      FWD & RWD should be different platforms.

      • 0 avatar
        sunridge place

        Yep…so here it is:

        1. Van
        2. Full Size Truck
        3. Small Truck
        4. Large Crossover
        5/6 large/mid size sedan/crossover (FWD/RWD)
        7/8 compact/crossover (FWD/RWD?)
        9. Subcompact
        10. ?
        11. ?
        12. ?
        13. ?

        Regional:
        1. Corvette
        2. ?
        3. ?
        4. ?

        • 0 avatar
          Athos Nobile

          1. Van
          2. Full size truck
          3. Mid size/compact truck
          4. A-segment, global
          5. A-segment, regional
          6;7. B-segment, as above
          8;9. C-segment, as above
          10. D-segment, global
          11. E-segment/prestige, global
          13;14. Sport coupe. Maybe Corvette.
          15. D-size SUV, 5 & 7 seats. Current Captiva comes to mind
          16. Full size SUV. Maybe the big unibody ones.

          I missed a regional A-car. So there you have the 17. Where’s the mystery?

          Disclaimer: the above info is entirely my guess.

          • 0 avatar
            sunridge place

            I never thought it was a mystery…just was wondering how people thought it would line up in 2018.

            Clearly, VW is smarter per Bertel.

            Maybe Wuling trucks are one of the regional platforms?

          • 0 avatar
            Athos Nobile

            I would guess that before moving into “kits” they have to at least do what the slide states.

            As per a previous Bertel article, Opel (GM) is already working on merging Astra and Insignia to some degree.

            Also, no one says GM can’t do both operations at the same time, or after ’18.

            Or whatever their constrains allow/require.

      • 0 avatar
        ect

        I seem to remember that Crysler designed a platform (LX?) that was intended to be used for both FWD and RWD cars.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          I always assumed the LX (e.g. Intrepid/Concorde) was always to be only FWD.

          • 0 avatar
            ect

            Sorry, I guessed wrong as to which platform it was. From what I’ve read recently, it seems that it was LH that was designed to accomodate either FWD or RWD.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          Yes the LH was designed to be a V6 powered FWD or AWD primarily for civilians and a V8 powered RWD primarily for police. The LX was originally just those blueprints pulled off the shelf and wrapped in a new skin, however Mercedes was more interested in creating “synergy” in the new company. They sent the few engineers they didn’t fire back to the drawing board to incorporate their differential and transmission along with a few other bits.

  • avatar
    Numbers_Matching

    Platform sharing (or kitting) has come a long way since the 80′s and 90′s. There was a time when this strategy was viewed as a compromise – and it still is if the platform is stretched too far between market segments. That is far less risk when the ‘platform’ is defined more as a modular assembly (MLB) rather than an entire rolling chassis.

  • avatar
    Truckducken

    This is really funny stuff!
    Some of us are old enough to remember decades when GM cars from all divisions looked more or less identical, because they were all built on the same platform. Unlike Camry/Lexus and others, it didn’t work out so well for the General. A little bit of extra chrome and a bunch of ads touting ‘elegance’ failed to inspire buyers under retirement age.
    So, for the past couple decades, the auto media and enthusiasts like you and I have been beating on GM to stop its pathetic platform exercises and develop cars that have authentic differentiation and value. To GM’s credit, they’ve started doing that, if far too late to stave off bankruptcy.
    Is it really time to ask GM to reverse course again? I think the answer for GM is the same as for everyone else not already on the kit train. Platform sharing brings a lot of savings in development, but it needs to be very well executed to succeed. There are potential failure points at the technical, design, and marketing levels, and GM has buggered them all up at various times in the past, often simultaneously. If I were GM, I’d move very slowly in this direction while relearning the ups and downs.

  • avatar
    TW4

    While the journos have been jumping on the kit architecture bandwagon, happily gorging themselves on never-ending hype, particularly from the spin doctors at VW, auto analysts have been a bit more guarded. TTAC featured an article from Bernstein Research about the possible disappointment from kit platforms, which seems reasonable.

    VW are quick to proclaim “falling costs and rising profits!1!”, but if you read the in depth interviews and reports, you’ll discover that VW will not attempt to capture market share by reducing prices. Instead, the company will boost development funding to out-feature and out-option the competition. VW have only just returned to the “peoples’ car” concept by reintroducing hard plastics and affordable architectures. Now we learn that the executives have ambitions of moving VW back into Audi’s path.

    VW are the first company to implement modern kit architectures throughout the global lineup. If they had plans to implement sporty, reliable, utilitarian designs with autobahn engineering credentials (or marketing fluff) at affordable prices, the auto market would have reason to cower. The early VW business model was incredibly successful, but their attempts at democratized luxury were uninspiring to say the least. The auto industry has time to develop architecture. VW will sabotage their incredible engineering accomplishments by cannibalizing their VAG cohorts and daydreaming about global domination.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    This seems like a faulty plan, when I pay for a vehicle, I want a quality piece, not a vehicle that is based of of a smaller or larger platform.
    The fact that this is conceivable suggests that either caddy needs better setups, or that chevy interferes too much with Buick an caddy.

    But next question, do modified platforms fit under a new category or under one it is based.
    Question in point
    GMT800 vs GMT820
    Not that this current problem exists any longer, but what about future endeavors?

    Problems created by this idea Seem eerily reminiscent of the fiero cheapening
    Kinda like the one ford policy GM style.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Honda’s next Civic (10th-Gen) and the 10th-Gen Accord are supposed to share an architecture. (Perhaps the eventual “merging” of platforms is one of the reasons, besides cost and crash-packaging, that the Accord lost the multilink front suspension; it will be interesting to see if the new Acura TLX, supposedly to be based on a variant of the new Accord, will also make that change.) I like my 2013 Accord Touring very much, but there are evident cuts in certain places, which I’m OK with up to a point, as long as the interior bits don’t squeak and rattle. BUT a Civic is still, and has always been, a lesser quality vehicle than an Accord! Hopefully, if “one sausage, different lengths” is the way things go, then the quality of all vehicles on the platform will be the highest, and not the lowest, common denominator. (Honda, IMHO, did this once with the original Integra, which to me was the equal of the Accord inside, but the size of the Civic.)

  • avatar
    J.Emerson

    “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.”

    It would be interesting to get some heavy-handed analysis of just how effective these “kit architectures” are going to be in reducing expenses, rather than something that sounds like a press-release rewrite. The Bernstein article was illuminating, but I don’t think they were aggressive enough in tearing down the “kit” jargon. The more I read about it, the more it seems like VW just slapped a new label on what were more traditionally known as “platforms” and pretended it was some kind of business revolution. Component sharing has been around for decades, and GM certainly knows how to milk that system.

  • avatar
    Flybrian

    Seems to me a bit odd that VW is so masterful in engineering these kits yet cannot get a headliner or glovebox latch to stay put for more than three years…

  • avatar
    SixDucks

    Kit architecture commonly results in significant compromises. For a company like VW where the majority of the vehicles they produce are similar in size and layout acceptable results can be achieved with careful engineering (but with VW there’s certainly no guarantee). For a much more diverse company like GM or Toyota it is a bit naive to think that kit architecture can be applied universally. Certainly on a few platforms, but not broadly.

    Consider the Chrysler K-car. Kit architecture to the extreme.

  • avatar
    Power6

    I’m not in the industry but this sounds like a whole bunch of Semantics. Didn’t an industry analyst debunk some of this already? Along the lines of 1 or 4 million on a platform the savings is similar.

    If you have to change the “kit” so much to cover a wide range of products at what point does it make sense to have seperate platforms.

    VW makes mostly FWD and FWD-based-AWD sedan type vehicles. I can see not a real need for many platforms for them, GM makes a much wider range of products.

  • avatar
    CelticPete

    Didn’t you get the memo people? Kits are a huge problem if GM doesn’t have em – and worthless for VW.

    Inexplicably – and I swear I am not going insane – this blog seems filled with anglo men who want to glorify the Japanese auto industry. I’d actually listen to people who would think I am biased against Japan if..

    I didn’t date a Girl Otaku, or speak any Japanese, or find myself wondering about how Soshoku Danshei could actually come to exist. Seriously the least interesting thing about Japan is the cars they sell us. (Kei cars are kinda cool)..

    How about this for a topic – who is in more trouble – Mazda or GM?

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      You aren’t insane. That or either both of us are insane because I’m sure I read an atricle here about how this kit/platform idea wasn’t really working out of VW as planned.

      Personally, I don’t want more homogeneous cars, I like the fact there is a lot to choose from. Of course now with global competition tightening and CAFE choking margins, this may need to be what happens.


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