By on June 20, 2013

The first CMF-based cars will be produced in a new section of Nissan’s plant in Chennai, India

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.

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4 Comments on “Nissan/Renault Join The Kit Car Age...”

  • avatar

    Roadtrip! Bertel, this is some great stuff you’ve been posting. I’m really looking forward to the upcoming kit articles.

  • avatar
    Pastor Glenn

    This “kit car” concept is actually something which I believe could be seen to have originated in the fertile minds of American Motors at their zenith in the early 1960’s, when the Rambler line took 3rd place in the US car sales race. It had been 4th place in 1960 and then in also in 1962 and 1963, no small feat.

    For 1963, the original “kit cars” by Rambler (the Classic and Ambassador) were introduced and were actually touted as extremely advanced (they were). Motor Trend gave Rambler their Car of the Year award.

    For 1964, the actual “kit car” process was employed for the first time in that the all-new Rambler American compact utilized much of the componentry (in terms of body parts) of the larger cars.

    The planned (and aborted) Tarpon sporty fastback was a show-car early in 1964 and could have been introduced alongside the Plymouth Barracuda and Ford Mustang by April 1964, except that the engineering team didn’t believe the big 327 V8 would fit (it did – as long as headers were employed rather than cast exhaust manifolds). We know this because a Rambler dealer in Californa (Bill Kraft) was bolting factory fresh “replacement” Ambassador 327 V8’s with 270 horsepower (and factory Holley 4-barrel carburetor, as well as wild additional manifold and carburetor options and stroker kit for 418 cubes if desire) into 1964 Americans, when the Tarpon would have been based upon. However, AMC’s 270hp V8 was much more powerful than anything Plymouth’s Barracuda offered until 1967. In fact, with headers “standard” along with dual exhausts (and perhaps a clutch fan), the 327 “Naaaash” V8 (as some derided the very capable Rambler V8) probably would have been rated at about 280hp (above Mustang’s top 271hp K-code 289 engine of 1965-1966).

    This is not to say that the Tarpon would have sold any better than did the Barracuda – nothing came close to Mustang sales in that era. But the point is that American Motors actually “did” kit-cars fifty years ago.

    Just goes to show – nothing is new under the sun!

  • avatar

    You know, this whole kit/common-platform thing was really started by Subaru. How long did they have a single car platform, with slight modifications to create all their other models?

  • avatar

    Is there a reason other than journalistic differentiation that you keep calling them kits instead of modules?

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