Platform Sharing Set to Increase Dramatically

By Chris Haak

Automotive News [sub] reported this week on an analysis prepared by consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers that projects huge global production volumes for shared platforms.  We’re not talking about rebadges here, but rather the fundamental “bones” underlying a particular vehicle, or in this case, a series of vehicles.

According to PwC, the top-ten vehicle platforms for 2016 will account for over 27.1 million units of production.  These same platforms, which are in various stages of their rollout in 2010, account for about 14.2 million units of production.  Yes, increased sales volumes as the global auto industry recovers can be partially credited to this potential 91 percent increase, but most of it points to consolidation of disparate vehicles – sometimes sold under completely different brands – onto versions of a single platform.

The full chart is below:

  2016 Production 2010 Production
Renault-Nissan X85 3,917,000 2,570,000
VW MQB 3,858,000 24,000
Toyota MC 3,274,000 2,950,000
Ford C1 2,714,000 1,451,000
Fiat 199 2,635,000 1,370,000
Hyundai HD 2,486,000 1,897,000
Toyota NBC 2,230,000 1,409,000
GM Global Gamma 2,123,000 333,000
GM Global Delta 2,022,000 966,000
PSA PF2 1,847,000 1,213,837
     
Total Volume 27,106,000 14,183,837
% Increase 91%

There is already an impressive amount of platform sharing occurring in 2010.  The 14.2 million units produced under these future top-10 platforms represent more than a quarter of the 51,971,328 vehicles produced in 2009.  Without knowing how many vehicles will be sold in 2016 (though apparently PwC does), the total number of cars represented by these ten platforms could be nearly half of all worldwide new-vehicle production.

The number-one platform in 2016 is projected to be the Renault-Nissan X85.  Currently, this platform underpins the Nissan Micra and Renault Clio minicars, as well as the Nissan Versa, Juke, and Cube, plus the several low-cost Dacia models.  Currently, X85 is the #2 platform, behind only Toyota’s MC platform.  The MC platform holds the Camry, RAV4, and Prius, among others.  Toyota’s MC is projected to see its utilization grow more slowly than should Renault’s X85.

Curiously, the new Volkswagen MQB platform, slated to be the #2 utilized new-vehicle platform in 2016, underpins only a projected 24,000 vehicles in 2010.  However, this platform will eventually support nearly all of VW’s front-drive offerings in the coming years, including the high-volume Golf and Polo, plus the Passat.  The dumbed-down 2011 US market Jetta apparently marks the beginning of a trend, since the to-be-named NMS (New Midsize Sedan) that will commence production in Chattanooga, Tennessee shortly will be based on an older platform in order to keep costs down.

Automakers have done a very good job in recent years of devoting considerable resources to a smaller number of platforms, but getting them ‘right.’  Rather than spreading resources thin and rolling out a plethora of models on half-baked platforms, the industry has found that development costs are lower, manufacturing costs are lower (and manufacturing can occur in any compatible plant around the world, rather than being limited to a single plant), and body/interior differences and chassis tuning are more than sufficient to differentiate among the vehicles – and sometimes brands – that share a single platform.

At one point, the GMT800 platform was the most-used vehicle platform in the world, forming the basis of the Silverado, Sierra, Avalanche, Tahoe, Suburban, Yukon, Yukon XL, Escalade, Escalade ESV, Escalade EXT, and Hummer H2, all during the boom years of pickup and SUV sales.  As sales of full-size pickups and SUVs have fallen from their mid-1990s peaks (and many SUV buyers abandoned their behemoths for crossovers), there is no longer a GMT platform on the top-ten list.  This is almost certainly a combined example of America’s waning influence on the global automotive scene as well as the emergence of China as the world’s largest auto market, and that country’s appetite for smaller cars.

I say that as long as the new platforms are good – light, safe, fun-to-drive, and flexible (in terms of size and their capability to accept a multitude of powertrain choices) – there’s no problem with rolling out more and more platform sharing in the coming years.

Author: Chris Haak

Chris is Autosavant's Managing Editor. He has a lifelong love of everything automotive, having grown up as the son of a car dealer. A married father of two sons, Chris is also in the process of indoctrinating them into the world of cars and trucks.

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2 Comments

  1. Platform sharing has not been a problem per se in the past, it has been Badge engineering, the most obvious example was the Cimmaron but there are many others.

    I think the period in the eighties and early nineties when the car-companies-formerly-known-as-big-3 were putting out total crap gave the concept of platform sharing a bad name (eg K Car). The idea was not wrong, just executed incompetently.

  2. Platform sharing is retro!!!!!!

    One of the most successful platform sharing that I have seen is the Ford Falcon! Yes the Ford Falcon of the 60s!

    The 1960 Ford Faloon served to a large degree the same platform or chasis for the wildly sucessful Mustang & Comet,Cougar the Maverick & Granada & Monarch plus Fairmont as well!

    Its amazing on how crafty and smart these engineers were back in the day!

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