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    General Motors Readies A New Product Strategy

    • GM Plans On Extending the Life of their Platforms

    General Motors is rethinking its approach in the automotive marketplace. A number of conflicting issues (auto sales growth are slowing, stricter standards for emissions and safety; autonomous vehicles, changes in how vehicles are owned, and trying to return more cash to stockholders) have the company making some drastic changes in an effort to cut captial spending.


    Speaking with Reuters, a number of GM executives said they are undertaking the most extensive overhaul of its vehicle development process in many years. The end goal is to design their global lineup with a few building blocks and spreading the costs of engineering and research over many more vehicles. Also, GM plans on doubling the life of their platforms.


    GM President Dan Ammann said the basic platform of their vehicles "could last a dozen years or more." This move will begin with the next-generation Chevrolet Cruze. GM plans on changing the exterior styling more often and updating electronics with updates from the internet.


    But this new strategy brings a lot of risks. First, GM will be increasing its capital spending from $7 billion in 2014 to $9 billion in 2019. This is so GM can prepare for this change in strategy with investments in various facilities. There is also the danger of the platforms being outdated or products that aren't appealing customers in different global markets.


    “The advantage could be short-lived,” said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president at LMC Automotive.


    Source: Reuters

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    All Companies will face this and even Apple has hit this with their iPhone. They have to have a core foundation that can lengthen and shorten depending on the platform it is to be used for, as such, one needs to look at a global base that can be used to build everything off of. 


    I actually can see two such bases, 1 for the auto / CUV world and one for the Truck / SUV world. This makes sense as long as they keep the design updated to be fresh along with electronics and power train.


    Most customers can care less about the frame and the core structure or what is the foundation for the auto.

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    I think you will see companies change  in these ways. 

    Fewer platform and what ones they have will be much more flexible. You will see a wider range in size on them, SUV/CUV and cars will share, even FWD and RWD may share some of the baiscs. Keep in mind platform sharing can share  but still use 80% different parts. They will share some basic engineering but can  vary in how they are used.


    Technology updates will come like an Apple Phone. You will see systems in the cars that will advance as the systems do. You may see a new driver interface system every two years.  Technology on the inside will be changing and changing often. They have to keep up with the phone operating systems. 


    All companies that plan to remain relevant will need China for sales growth and volume. Those not there will struggle. 


    I expect the Buick/Opel/Holden and Vauxhall division to really be the one to carry the global cost. 


    I like seeing the changes in styling more often. I miss the days where every year was different and often in major ways. In todays market styling will help drive new sales as people want to have the latest and greatest these days as we see in many products from electronics to clothing. 


    I hope they get a global Emissions standard agreed on. The cost savings would be great here. I am sure all will agree but CARB.

    The split on the platforms will be mid to large and small to mid. Cars and SUV/CUV will share. We already see this on the Gamma. I expect the Tahoe will go unibody at some point. We have already seen how the Camaro and ATS while on the same platform they can be much different cars. This will only be expanded even more. 

    The electronics I hope will be like an App store. You will be able to down load anything from new entertainment to performance and suspension settings. That is something sorely missing now on the GM systems is being able to down load firmware updates on most models.  


    GM will also continue to partner with Honda in other areas and I expect with Ford at least on transmissions. GM has an edge here and sharing the cost on parts not seen by the public will only help them save money. Also working with companies like this they have money and GM has the no how so the sharing here will really benefit GM more in the end. 


    The real challenge will be holding cost down on cars. That is tough as you add more technology, more high priced lighter materials and higher labor cost it will drive prices up faster than the cost of living increases. 

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    Doubling the lifespans of the platforms ain't gonna work. The rest may have some merit, but investing in "various facilities" is a bit vague too.

    Probably not a good idea overall.


    I think the doubled life will come from the flexibility of these platforms. While the basic architecture will remain the same sheet metal and even suspensions can be updated and changed to the point people will see nothing but a totally new car. 

    We have to keep in mind that the term platform is much more broad these days wit the increased flexibility we have now. The Camaro and ATS are Alpha based but most of the parts are specific to each model The design is shared but not the parts or dimensions.


    Platforms are like coats. They can have similar structure but yet be made out of different materials, be of a different style and be of a different weight, but yet they still hold the same basic design. In the old days there just was little to no flexibility to move hard points that permitted a wider use of a car platform. Computer design today has given us this ability. 

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    Anyways, GM's done a lot of good platform stuff recently. Actually, this is terrific news.


    Now GM can work on other things we wish they did more of - transform the customer experiences of Cadillac owners, for example. Change the brand identity of Buick to something very fashionable and stylish.


    GM is thinking like the company that needs to continue to get the most of out their platforms. Squeeze the margins, make as much profits as possible, and amortize the f*** out their best platforms. So, yeah. Well they shouldn't tunnel vision, and then it'll be fine.


    What it also could mean is that the effective use of platforms could change. You might find Omega being used in a Chevy 20 years from now maybe, because it might just have amazing longevity, given what it does for Cadillac now.


    It won't be like how the last Impala was just a 20 year old barge. Well, technically it'll really be the same, but we know it won't feel like that.

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    Technology is advancing quicker than ever before. Therefore, it stands to reason that any twenty year-old platform will feel like a twenty year-old platform. Also, platform development and showroom experience need not be mutually exclusive. Ideally, it's a synergistic kind of thing.

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    I'm pretty sure the work that went into making Omega will keep the platform relevant for a long time. Besides, ideally the Omega platform was supposed to have a product out a few years prior to now anyways. And still it has just remarkable properties.


    Alright, maybe 10 years.


    Not 20. I was thinking of the Panther when I said that platform, but that was just a run of the mill platform that became the Crown Vic we all know as a Police mainstay.


    But Imagine a Police vehicle made on Omega 10 years from now just for the kicks of getting some more juice out of it. Police fleets would salivating all over for that mind-boggling juiciness.


    EV platforms are all going to be the same. Subframe - battery - Subframe sandwich.

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    Even ten years is a bit ambitious IMO. Using Omega as an example: you could theoretically replace the aluminum castings as often as you find advances. But you still have to make new dies for those castings, and you wind up bonding them to the same steel passenger cage, which will inevitably become the flimsiest component for chassis tuning purposes. By way of another example: the C6 platform in Z06 trim was around for eight years but towards the end was being criticized for tricky limit handling, in part due to things like steering components.

    Assuming that the batteries will be a part of the floor for all EV apps is also limiting in its own fashion: packaging for batteries is so flexible that the floor may not always be the best way. If you have a hardcore rock-crawler e-Wrangler, do you really want to have a skidplate protecting some pretty volatile battery chemistry?

    Edited by El Kabong

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    The next big switch in automotive will be additive manufacturing. That's the holy grail.


    I don't think carbon fibre will be viable for mass production.


    And then they'll be a Moore's law on that stuff in terms of getting the accuracy of depositing material to mere nanometers to even just single atoms if it's possible - and doing it in real production time frames.

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    A platform lifetime is a very nebulous thing. The 2003 Malibu, 2013 Cadillac XTS, and 2016 Lacrosse and 2016 Malibu are all just variants of the same platform, yet show great evolution over time. What GM has shown lately is that the steel on the outside is nearly irrelevant.

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    I'm talking about stuff 20-30 years from now, which is then maybe when additive manufacturing might make sense.


    Building a car nowadays requires A LOT of robots.


    A LOT of different production lines.


    A LOT of different stations with different tools because assembly is a sequential process.


    What additive manufacturing can do, is do even more of the "casting" of one part to replace 10s if not 100s of parts into one piece.


    So you're still going to have assembly, but it might just be a scaled version of how to build LEGOs...

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    Some of you forget with the flexibility to morph into other vehicles in size shape and class that a more flexible platform can be modified and updated in sections not necessitating a complete overhaul. 

    Cars like the Zeta were developed in a time where hard points were fixed and the inability to completely change the suspension geometry or cut weight were impossible to nearly impossible.. Today they can go in and move hard points and cit weight along with completer changes in suspension geometry and style. 

    The new platforms are movable and change able so in essence you can keep the maid section compartment and plug in all sorts of new things along the way. This way you can keep the same base but update it to the point it really is a new car. 


    By being able to carry over the base part it will save much in time and money developing a part of the car that is still viable. 


    Actually time is money. 

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    if the platforms are good and forward thinking, they can last a long time.  I would expect 6-7 years min. out of an investment in a platform.  And use in a big range of vehicles.


    I doubt there is that much more practical and cost effective they can do to improve ride, handling, and vehicle dynamics to the point where there is diminishing returns.  Cars are so much more capable than their drivers so we don't need cutting edge platforms when the buyer base wants loafing CUV's.  Plus, parts costs and ability to fix and stock them improve when commonality and long run come into play.


    Lets hope penny pinching GM doesn't come back.


    The best thing would be for regulations to back off.  A moratorium on tightening the noose in mpg, safety, emissions.  Let the manufs make some money and become more efficient by being able to spread out their investment for awhile. I am a state rights person but admit in this industry a voluntary global standards base would be a good idea.  Tell CARB to go bite itself and go away.  I am sure the world automakers don't want CARB dictating the way.  


    This capital cost savings is probably due to needing to steer money into stuff enthusiasts don't like, like autonomous cars.  Pilfer the mass market cars to generate money for the future plastic pods.

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    First you need to not think of platforms in today's terms as they are not going to be the same where 6-7 years and they are done. Flexibility lets you not only make more diverse products but also update platforms so they can be adjusted to last longer. This is something we have never had before so we can not look it the same way. 


    Well as for regulations that is going to be tough as not only will different countries and continents not agree but California is in their own little world. A international standard would be great but so would world peace. Then the other issue is you get into Europe with the Green party and other groups that really have little intention to work with MFG. You and I agree on state rights but these folks want to dictate to everyone their own standards even if it hurts the economy.Just look at the Global Environmental agreements that they are pressing on us and how it would really damage our ability to make many products today. While the global standard would be goo achieving it with a reasonable standard for all would be difficult. 


    As for cost savings it is a must today as building and desingning a car is more expensive than ever. Autonomous is a small part but just the cost of testing and design/engineering along with material cost, labor cost etc are higher than ever. This is why volume from China is important as the auto markets have peaked else where. This is why any MFG no in China is at risk going into the future. China knows this and is using this to their advantage. Just look at GM India. China will gain a lot there as many of the cars going there are made in China under the 51% ownership. 


    I hate to say this but China is stealing a good chunk of our auto industry as with the 51% share they are getting a ton of technology and they are taking the most money. The sad thing is they know that everyone has to be a part of their market too. 


    Kind of like selling air. If you want to survive you need to pay the price but in the end you are tethered to a partner that will take advantage of you because they can. 

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