The Kit Race: You Have To Be In It To Win It - And GM Ain't

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
the kit race you have to be in it to win it and gm ain t

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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  • Power6 Power6 on Jun 13, 2013

    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.

  • CelticPete CelticPete on Jun 14, 2013

    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?

    • Danio3834 Danio3834 on Jun 14, 2013

      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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