By on June 15, 2009

Speaking at the Automotive News [sub] Manufacturing Conference, GM global manufacturing and labor relations honcho Gary Cowger (remember him?) had a “by Jove, we’ve got it!” moment that placed him in instant contention for the “Minimum” prefix recently vacated by Chrysler’s Bob Nardelli. Even the hosting publication couldn’t keep the scorn from dripping off its nut graph. “General Motors thinks it has created a method to build small vehicles profitably in North America and calls it interbuildability. Competitors know the concept as standardization.” Can you feel the love (in the air tonight)?

That’s right folks, things at GM are two-Phil-Collins-references-in-one-day bad. “One key,” of GM’s cunning plan, per AN‘s eye-rolling coverage is that “different models on the same architecture will have “plug and play” component modules, such as exhaust systems and front-end modules.” Standardization of components. Imagine that. But it’s all groundbreakery to GM, which is just introducing this “interbuildability” on global versions of Opel’s Insignia (Epsilon II). How groundbreaking? Cowger claims 29 percent savings on engineering costs. This overhaul has been under way for four years, reveals Cowger, and will be “82 percent complete by 2012.” Whatever that means. As Henry Ford used to say, they were bound to figure this (deleted) out sooner or later.

In other dynamic innovation synergy news, Cowger reveals GM may have to introduce A-class city cars in order to meet the 2016 35.5 MPG CAFE standard.

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31 Comments on “GM’s Got This Car Thing Figured Out...”


  • avatar
    commando1

    Ummmm……
    One platform. Five grills?

  • avatar
    trlstanc

    Reading stories like this, where it’s shown how ignorant GM execs are and have been of their competative place in the market is amazing. Like how all the execs only drive carefully prepared models at their test trac.

    It makes me think that a huge amount of GM’s energy was spent not making good cars, but convincing the management that they were making good cars. And now that things are going to hell, these execs are getting their first real look at how things are in the real world.

  • avatar
    Cicero

    $50 billion in taxpayer funds buys a new name for badge engineering.

  • avatar
    superbadd75

    Ummmm……
    One platform. Five grills?

    Only four. Chevy, Cadillac, GMC, and Buick. The new owners of Saab, Hummer, and Opel will be forced to engineer their own grills.

    Wow, “interbuildability”? These guys are further behind than I had ever imagined. And to think I actually thought that they might be able to crawl back out of this bankruptcy thing. I was so wrong. They’re toast.

  • avatar
    bjcpdx

    Remember that in the corporate world, the real effort goes into keeping your job, not into doing what’s right for the company. This absolutely smacks of that mentality.

    Here’s a likely scenario:

    Desperate GM Middle-Management Type to Upper-Management Types: “The ideal term to describe our new “interbuildability” is “plug and play”. It’s Now, it’s Hip, it’s electronic-y and it sounds like all the parts fit together real good”.

    Upper-Management Head Honcho (who vaguely kind of thinks he knows what “plug-and-play” is): “I like it!”

    Upper-Management (chorus): “We like it!”

  • avatar
    commando1

    BINGO!
    LMAO

    [you’ve had to attend a zillion meetings to understand this one]

  • avatar
    dwford

    I suppose we can test this theory when the imported Buick Regal shows up next to the US built LaCrosse. Or when the Saab 9-4x shows up next to the new SRX..

    I’d be willing to bet there’s not much “interbuildability” between the G6, Aura, and Malibu.

  • avatar
    rodster205

    “82 percent complete by 2012.”

    This guy has never actually produced anything tangible in his life, or he would realize how idiotic this statment is. Is that really a quote? If so, he jotted that note from looking at a Gantt chart probably produced MS Project that was given to upper management to “show that progress was being made”. Total MBA Project Management BS.

  • avatar

    Welcome to the early 1970s, GM.

    I can’t believe they thought this particular article was a good idea.

  • avatar
    DweezilSFV

    They’ve only been trying for nearly 50 years to figure out how to make money on a small car.

    This sounds like just another excuse for an X or an A or a J. Especially since the X and A actually did share interchangible components and platforms. Or the Cs. Or the Ns. Did they exhume Roger Smith?

    Btw: the G6, Malibu and Aura are all based on the extended Epsilon platform developed by Opel & are built on the same assembly line and use the same engines, transmissions,steering etc etc etc. The Aura shares well over 60% of it’s internals with the G6.

    Won’t the VUE/Equinox/Cadillac do just that sort of pluggin and playin [to go along with Fritzie’s deeper, faster, harder]? Or is that just pickin and grinnin till 2012 when the real interchangability comes along. There’s no hope for this company. Give the toilet another flush, there’s still money floating on the top.

    And you all say “badge engineering” like it’s an ugly thing…..

  • avatar
    newfdawg

    “Interbuildability?” The more things change the more they stay the same. Sounds like badge engineering all over again. The only thing GM has learned from history is they refuse to learn from history.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Introducing A-class city cars is one thing. Actually selling them in order to meet EPA requirements is quite another.

    Gee, what will the government do when the CAFE of the manufacturers doesn’t meet the requirements simply because people don’t all want to drive tin cans? Fine them as they do now? That’ll help the bottom line.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporate_Average_Fuel_Economy

  • avatar
    Jaywalker

    Standardization, by whatever name, sounds good, but who’s going to do the engineering for them? They’ve sold Opel.

  • avatar
    TomH

    In the “you can’t win for losing column,” Cowger is one of the few GM execs who really got it. GM’s manufacturing is actually performing at world class levels. Now, if the Politburo inspired management team could just get rid of the mediocre cars in their stable and get rid of the redundant undifferentiated brands/carlines, what he’s saying would have a bit more credibility. Bottom line is that Cowger wasn’t the problem; that being said, he is an easy target by association.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    “different models on the same architecture will have “plug and play” component modules, such as exhaust systems and front-end modules.”

    Very troubling. I remember the early and mid-1970s when the Olds Cutlass, Buick Regal, Chevy Monte Carlo, Pontiac Grand Prix all shared lots of components. It wasn’t the first time, and it wasn’t the last time.

    So why are they saying this is “new.”

  • avatar
    Stein X Leikanger

    Spreadsheet engineering is all they know how to do.

  • avatar

    “Plug and Play” – term coined in the early 90’s by Microsoft. Also known as “plug and pray.”

  • avatar
    WetWilly

    Interbuildability. Wow. Who’d have thought there would be a single word that sums up the failure of The Re:Invented GM?

  • avatar
    DrivnEZ

    It’s hard for me to imagine that the leadership of ANY credible corporation could spout such empty verbage.

    “The interbuildability on this plug-n-play baby will be 82% complete in four more years.”*

    *Warranty backed by the US Gubamint.

    This stuff would be funny if we hadn’t paid for it with our tax dollars.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Shhh, don’t anybody tell VW or the Japanese about this interbuildability idea. We really got ’em cornered now!

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    Interbuildability?!?! You mean a smaller number of suppliers get to put out higher volumes of a smaller range of standard parts that get used across more vehicles?

    One question and an observation;

    1. How does that help the upcoming supplier-bailout?

    and

    2. Does that mean “New GM” can screw that smaller number of high volume suppliers harder????? “Give us the discount and we’ll make it up to you in volume.”

    (I’ll take a bet #2 is part of the NEW GM plan, or that Old GM, where the old ideas are the same/new ideas).

  • avatar
    vento97

    You mean after getting bitch-slapped by the Germans, Japanese, and Koreans all these years the GM light bulb is finally turning on?

    Ah, nevermind… The bulb will burn bright for about 5 minutes or so before its lights out again – and back to business as usual…

  • avatar
    vento97

    commando1 :
    June 15th, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    BINGO!
    LMAO

    You mean Buzzword BINGO! …:)

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    Hey ! I’ve got this playoff thing FIGURED OUT !
    (signed)
    The Orlando Magic and The Cleveland Cavs

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    Hey ! I’ve got this World War II thing FIGURED OUT !
    (signed)
    Adolph Hit…never mind

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    Hey ! I’ve got this iceberg thing FIGURED OUT !
    (signed),
    The HMS Titanic

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    Hey ! I’ve got this communism thing figured out !
    (signed),
    The Soviet Union

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    Hey ! I’ve got this hydrogen thing figured out !
    (signed)
    The Hindenburg

  • avatar
    Jeff Puthuff

    Stop, “scarey”. It’s funny, but off-topic.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    They’ve only been trying for nearly 50 years to figure out how to make money on a small car.

    Funny how building a good one never entered the equation.

    GM strategy in a nutshell:

    Step 1: Design something that isn’t particularly good.

    Step 2: Build lots of the not-particularly-good designs created during Step 1.

    Step 3: Express shock when nobody buys the large quantities of dreck created during Step 2.

    Step 4: Blame the Japanese, federal government, CAFE regulations, environmental movement, “currency manipulation”, workers, the American public, and my mother, among others, for their unwillingness to buy stuff with Step 1’s flaws built in Step 2 quantities.

    Step 4A: Claim that Americans don’t want small cars, while Civics and Corollas built in North America generate profits.

    Step 5: Roll out the incentives, sell Step 2 inventory at loss.

    Step 6: Rinse, lather, repeat until Chapter 11.

    Stay tuned for Step 7. Here’s hoping that it isn’t a return of Step 1…

  • avatar
    JohnHowardOxley

    @ Scarey:

    The Titanic was not an “HMS” — “HMS” is the reserved designation for His/Her Majesty’s Ship — a component of the Royal Navy. But interestingly enough, the Titanic was not an “SS” [Steam Ship] either — she was an “RMS” — a Royal Mail Ship, because she was built with subsidies from the British government to serve as an auxiliary during wartime, and to, well, carry mail, in times of peace.

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