Nissan/Renault Join The Kit Car Age

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
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nissan renault join the kit car age

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.

Bertel Schmitt
Bertel Schmitt

Bertel Schmitt comes back to journalism after taking a 35 year break in advertising and marketing. He ran and owned advertising agencies in Duesseldorf, Germany, and New York City. Volkswagen A.G. was Bertel's most important corporate account. Schmitt's advertising and marketing career touched many corners of the industry with a special focus on automotive products and services. Since 2004, he lives in Japan and China with his wife <a href=""> Tomoko </a>. Bertel Schmitt is a founding board member of the <a href=""> Offshore Super Series </a>, an American offshore powerboat racing organization. He is co-owner of the racing team Typhoon.

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  • Npaladin2000 Npaladin2000 on Jun 20, 2013

    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?

  • Type57SC Type57SC on Jun 26, 2013

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

  • Ernesto Perez There's a line in the movie Armageddon where Bruce Willis says " is this the best idea NASA came up with?". Don't quote me. I'm asking is this the best idea NY came up with? What's next? Charging pedestrians to walk in certain parts of the city? Every year the price for everything gets more expensive and most of the services we pay for gets worse. Obviously more money is not the solution. What we need are better ideas, strategies and inventions. You want to charge drivers in the city - then put tolls on the free bridges like the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges. There's always a better way or product. It's just the idiots on top think they know best.
  • Carsofchaos The bike lanes aren't even close to carrying "more than the car lanes replaced". You clearly don't drive in Midtown Manhattan on a daily like I do.
  • Carsofchaos The problem with congestion, dear friends, is not the cars per se. I drive into the city daily and the problem is this:Your average street in the area used to be 4 lanes. Now it is a bus lane, a bike lane (now you're down to two lanes), then you have delivery trucks double parking, along with the Uber and Lyft drivers also double parking. So your 4 lane avenue is now a 1.5 lane avenue. Do you now see the problem? Congestion pricing will fix none of these things....what it WILL do is fund persion plans.
  • FreedMike Many F150s I encounter are autonomously driven...and by that I mean they're driving themselves because the dips**ts at the wheel are paying attention to everything else but the road.
  • Tassos A "small car", TIM????????????This is the GLE. Have you even ever SEEN the huge thing at a dealer's??? NOT even the GLC,and Merc has TWO classes even SMALLER than the C (The A and the B, you guessed it? You must be a GENIUS!).THe E is a "MIDSIZED" crossover, NOT A SMALL ONE BY ANY STRETCH OF THE IMAGINATION, oh CLUELESS one.I AM SICK AND TIRED OF THE NONSENSE you post here every god damned day.And I BET you will never even CORRECT your NONSENSE, much less APOLOGIZE for your cluelessness and unprofessionalism.