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|
|GM Global Gamma||2,123,000||333,000|
|GM Global Delta||2,022,000||966,000|
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.