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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 There is also the danger of the platforms being outdated or products that aren't appealing customers in different global markets.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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    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.

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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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    If you can print a complete car in 17 hours then you will have the capability to match what GM Oshawa was doing circa 2007 with Impalas. But that would require a LOT of printers.

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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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      “Nearly everything about the Duramax is new, designed to produce more torque at lower rpm and more confidence when trailering or hauling,” said Gary Arvan, chief engineer. “You’ll also notice the refinement improvements the moment you start the engine, and appreciate them as you cruise quietly down the highway — with or without a trailer.”
      Additional highlights include:
      New, stronger cylinder block and cylinder heads New, stronger rotating and reciprocating assembly Increased oil- and coolant-flow capacity New EGR system with single cooler and integrated bypass New electrically actuated/electronically controlled turbocharging system All-new advanced solenoid fuel system All-new electronic controls New full-length damped steel oil pan that contributes to quietness New rocker cover/fuel system acoustical treatments B20 bio-diesel compatibility SAE-certified 445 net horsepower (332 kW) at 2,800 rpm SAE-certified 910 net lb.-ft. of torque (1,234 Nm) at 1,600 rpm A new, patent-pending vehicle air intake system — distinguished on the Silverado HD by a bold hood scoop — drives cool, dry air into the engine for sustained performance and cooler engine temperatures during difficult conditions, such as trailering on steep grades. Cooler air helps the engine run better under load, especially in conditions where engine and transmission temperatures can rise quickly. That allows the Duramax to maintain more power and vehicle speed when trailering in the toughest conditions.
      The intake design is another example of the advanced integration included in the 2017 Silverado HD that makes it over-the-road capable.   
      A strong foundation
      As with previous versions, the new Duramax block features a strong cast-iron foundation known for its durability, with induction-hardened cylinder walls and five nodular iron main bearings. It retains the same 4.05-inch (103mm) and 3.89-inch (99mm) bore and stroke dimensions as the current engine, retaining the Duramax’s familiar 6.6L (403 cu.-in./6,599 cc) displacement.
      A deep-skirt design and four-bolt, cross-bolted main caps help ensure the block’s strength and enable more accurate location of the rotating assembly. A die-cast aluminum lower crankcase also strengthens the engine block and serves as the lower engine cover, while reducing its overall weight.
      The new engine block incorporates larger-diameter crankshaft connecting rod journals than the current engine, enabling the placement of a stronger crankshaft and increased bearing area to handle higher cylinder loads.
      An enhanced oiling circuit, with higher flow capacity and a dedicated feed for the turbocharger, provides increased pressure at the turbo and faster oil delivery. Larger piston-cooling oil jets at the bottom of the cylinder bores spray up to twice the amount of engine oil into oil galleries under the crown of the pistons, contributing to lower engine temperature and greater durability.
      A new, two-piece oil pan contributes to the new Duramax’s quieter operation. It consists of a laminated steel oil pan with an upper aluminum section. The aluminum section provides strength-enhancing rigidity for the engine, but a pan made entirely of aluminum would radiate more noise, so the laminated steel lower section is added to dampen noise and vibration.
      There’s also an integrated oil cooler with 50 percent greater capacity than the current engine’s, ensuring more consistent temperatures at higher engine loads.
      Segment firsts
      Re-melt piston bowl rim Venturi Jet Drain Oil Separator Closed-loop glow plug temperature control Stronger pistons with remelt
      A tough, forged micro-alloy steel crankshaft anchors the new Duramax’s stronger rotating assembly. Cut-then-rolled journal fillets contribute to its durability by strengthening the junction where the journals — the round sections on which the bearings slide — meet the webs that separate the main and rod journals.
      The connecting rods are stronger, too, and incorporate a new 45-degree split-angle design to allow the larger-diameter rod bearings to pass through the cylinder bores during engine assembly. They’re forged and sintered with a durable powdered metal alloy, with a fractured-cap design enabling more precise cap-to-rod fitment. 
      A new, stronger cast-aluminum piston design tops off the rotating assembly. It features a taller crown area and a remelted combustion bowl rim for greater strength. Remelting is an additional manufacturing process for aluminum pistons in which the bowl rim area is reheated after casting and pre-machining, creating a much finer and more consistent metal grain structure that greatly enhances thermal fatigue properties.
      Additionally, the Duramax’s pistons don’t use pin bushings, reducing reciprocating weight to help the engine rev quicker and respond faster to throttle changes.
      Lightweight cylinder heads, solenoid injectors
      The redesigned engine retains the Duramax’s signature first-in-class aluminum cylinder head design, with six head bolts per cylinder and four valves per cylinder. The aluminum construction helps reduce the engine’s overall weight, while the six-bolt design provides exceptional head-clamping strength — a must in a high-compression, turbocharged application.
      A new aluminum head casting uses a new double-layer water core design that separates and arranges water cores in layers to create a stiffer head structure with more precise coolant flow control. The heads’ airflow passages are also heavily revised to enhance airflow, contributing to the engine’s increased horsepower and torque.
      The Duramax employs a common-rail direct injection fuel system with new high-capability solenoid-type injectors. High fuel pressure of 29,000 psi (2,000 bar) promotes excellent fuel atomization for a cleaner burn that promotes reduced particulate emissions. The new injectors also support up to seven fuel delivery events per combustion event, contributing to lower noise, greater efficiency and lower emissions. Technology advancements enable less-complex solenoid injectors to deliver comparable performance to piezo-type injectors.
      Electronically controlled, variable-geometry turbocharging system
      A new electronically controlled, variable-vane turbocharger advances the Duramax’s legacy of variable-geometry boosting. Compared to the current engine, the system produces higher maximum boost pressure — 28 psi (195 kPa) — to help the engine make more power, and revisions to enhance the capability of the exhaust-brake system.
      Along with a new camshaft profile and improved cylinder head design, the Duramax’s new variable-vane turbocharger enables the engine to deliver more power with lower exhaust emissions. It uses a more advanced variable-vane mechanism, allowing a 104-degree F (40 C) increase in exhaust temperature capability. The self-contained mechanism decouples movement from the turbine housing, allowing operation at higher temperature. That enables the engine to achieve higher power at lower cylinder pressure. Additionally, it has lower internal leakage, allowing more exhaust energy to be captured during exhaust braking.
      The integrated exhaust brake system makes towing less stressful by creating added backpressure in the exhaust, resulting in negative torque during deceleration and downhill driving, enhancing driver control and prolonging brake pad life.
      Venturi Jet Drain Oil Separator
      A new Venturi Jet Drain Oil Separator employed with the Duramax 6.6L is the first of its type in the segment and is designed to ensure oil control in sustained full-load operation. The totally sealed system collects the fine mist of oil entrained in the blow-by gas and uses a small portion of the boosted air generated by the turbocharger to pump the collected oil back to the engine oil sump for re-use by the engine. Less sophisticated systems are not able to return this oil during full-load operation, which can result in oil carryover into the cylinders during combustion.
      Cold Start System
      The new Duramax also provides outstanding cold-weather performance, with microprocessor-controlled glow plugs capable of gas-engine-like starting performance in fewer than 3 seconds in temperatures as low as -20 degrees F (-29 C) without a block heater. The system is enhanced with ceramic glow plugs and automatic temperature compensation — a first-in-class feature providing improved robustness and capability. The automatic temperature compensation assesses and adjusts the current to each glow plug for every use, providing optimal temperature for cold start performance and durability.     
      Electronic throttle valve and cooled EGR
      Unlike a gasoline engine, a diesel engine doesn’t necessarily require a throttle control system. The Duramax 6.6L employs an electronic throttle valve to regulate intake manifold pressure in order to increase exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) rates. It also contributes to smoother engine shutdown.
      Additionally, a cooled exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system enhances performance and helps reduce emissions by diverting some of the engine-out exhaust gas and mixing it back into the fresh intake air stream, which is fed through the cylinder head for combustion. This lowers combustion temperatures, improving emissions performance by reducing NOx formation.
      The exhaust is cooled in a unique heat exchanger before it’s fed into the intake stream through a patented EGR mixing device, further improving emissions and performance capability. An integrated bypass allows non-cooled exhaust gas to be fed back into the system to help the engine more quickly achieve optimal operating temperature when cold.
      B20 Biodiesel Capability
      The new Duramax 6.6L is capable of running on B20 biodiesel, a fuel composed of 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent conventional diesel. B20 helps lower carbon dioxide emissions and lessens dependence on petroleum. It is a domestically produced, renewable fuel made primarily of plant matter — mostly soybean oil.
      Manufacturing
      The new Duramax 6.6L turbo-diesel engine is produced with locally and globally sourced parts at the DMAX Ltd. (GM’s joint venture with Isuzu) manufacturing facility in Moraine, Ohio.
      Allison 1000 Automatic Transmission
      The proven Allison 1000 six-speed automatic transmission is matched with the new Duramax 6.6L. A number of refinements have been made to accommodate the engine’s higher torque capacity, including a new torque converter.
      The Allison 1000’s technologically advanced control features, such as driver shift control with manual shift feature and a patented elevated idle mode cab warm-up feature, haven’t changed. Also, the Tow/Haul mode reduces shift cycling for better control and improved cooling when towing or hauling heavy loads.
      There’s also a smart diesel exhaust brake feature that enhances control when descending steep grades.

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