Northstar

At GM, global is finally a go

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JASON STEIN | Automotive News
Posted Date: 8/22/05
http://www.autoweek.com/news.cms?newsId=103024

General Motors has promised to run product development globally in the past. This time it's actually happening.

After several false starts, GM is assigning global programs to different vehicle development centers around the world.

The automaker now has globalized engineering, design, information systems and manufacturing, with global operating and capital budgets.

For instance, engineering work on the next generation of vehicles on the mid-sized, front-wheel-drive Epsilon architecture -- including the Chevrolet Malibu and Pontiac G6 -- now is led by GM's German unit in Ruesselsheim.

The goal is that vehicles on Epsilon 2 built around the world will share dimensions, components and manufacturing processes.

If necessary, they could be built in the same plant. Epsilon 2 is scheduled to debut in the 2009 model year.

The automaker has tried this before. GM executives touted the company's initial Epsilon architecture, and the fwd, small-car Delta architecture, as global platforms. But GM failed to deliver.

Adam Opel AG rejected Delta for its Astra small car. And each region that used Epsilon modified it, adding cost and making the vehicles just different enough that parts and production systems weren't interchangeable.

"Today's Epsilon is not interbuildable," GM Vice Chairman Robert Lutz admitted this year.

"We call them all Epsilon, but Saabs can't be built in a German Epsilon plant.

"German Epsilons can't be built in a Saab plant. Malibu and G6 couldn't be built in Europe. (Opel) Vectra couldn't be built in the United States."

To remedy the problem, GM has taken considerable autonomy away from regional presidents. In March, GM created the Automotive Product Board to keep an eye on the process. For better or worse, the board is meant to ensure that the variations of the past no longer can occur.

To take advantage of economies in purchasing, vehicles built on global architectures will have identical parts and connecting points under the skin, GM promises. Plug-and-play is the goal.

GM uses the term "architecture" to signify a set of common components, performance characteristics, a common manufacturing process, a range of dimensions and connecting points for key component systems.

Problems with G6

One car -- the G6 -- prompted the new push for truly global design.

GM engineers in North America wanted to create a convertible version of the G6. But they couldn't use the Saab 9-3 convertible as the basis for the G6, even though both are based on Epsilon.

Saab engineers had changed the points that attach the vehicle to the assembly line, GM Chairman Rick Wagoner said at the Geneva auto show in March. The product board will "clean up those kinds of things," Wagoner said.

To coordinate its transformation, GM appointed Jon Lauckner to the newly created post of vice president of global program management on May 1. Lauckner was a global vehicle line executive on the Epsilon program, coordinating development of products for Europe and North America.

GM created Lauckner's position to reduce overlaps in engineering and purchasing and to cut lead times.

Technically, GM's virtual reality centers in different regions, along with increasingly powerful computer connections, will enable teams to collaborate globally to design and engineer vehicles, executives say. That will allow different regions to influence product decisions.

GM's four regions are North America, Europe, Asia Pacific and Latin America/Africa/Middle East.

Borrowing from Opel

Saturn's next wave of North American products will include vehicles built on the Epsilon and Delta small-vehicle fwd architectures, but they will be engineered and styled with the help of Opel in Germany.

Now Opel will develop as many as three models that could be sold under its own name in Europe and as Saturns in North America.

Theta, GM's next-generation sport wagons, will expand with engineering help from GM Daewoo & Technology in South Korea.

Everything is on the table. Global is finally a go.

"We will be able to build a Buick Epsilon in China, a Saab Epsilon in Korea or the United States," Lutz promises. "Once we get identical parts, we have these enormous savings in worldwide parts buying."
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So I guess the flexible Epsilon idea is over, eh? It's going to stay a strict front-driver? That's gonna suck. GM could easily take the lead in that segment vith rear-drive volume intermediates. It also sucks that G6 shouldered ALL the weight as being the problem child, BTW... Does this also mean the G6 convertible is over, as production-ready as it looked on the auto show circuit?
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No, the G6 convert is still a go, GM sent Autonews a letter saying that they were wrong and it was still on schedule for early '06 release.
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So I guess the flexible Epsilon idea is over, eh?  It's going to stay a strict front-driver?

That's gonna suck.  GM could easily take the lead in that segment vith rear-drive volume intermediates....

[post="1961"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


Why is that? Did Wagoner sign a deal with the Devil to keep RWD out of 90% of their cars? :angry: Edited by Sixty8panther
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Sharing components and stuff is good, but I do hope that doesn't mean blatant rebadging jobs, or hardly differentiable models.
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Sharing components and stuff is good, but I do hope that doesn't mean blatant rebadging jobs, or hardly differentiable models.

[post="1999"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]

I don't think having the exact same chassis, with a few tweaks here and there in regards to tune, means you have to use the same body, interior, and engines....
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Why is that? Did Wagoner sign a deal with the Devil to keep RWD out of 90% of their cars?  :angry:

[post="1969"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]



Was there ever a plan like that? Ep II will offer AWD, and no RWD cars until maybe CY2009. No Chevy RWD mid sized "Chevelle" or "Caprice" car line is under consideration, other then the on/off/on "Four Seater that may be called Camaro".

And, who really thought GM was going suddenly to switch back to Body On Frame RWD cars? I mean really, do you know what is going on in the new car industry?? The Aussie based Zeta is unibody and any other new RWD cars would be, also.

Accoding to news reports today, GM is pouring cash into trucks, Sport Wagons, Sigma II, and Epsillon II.

See www.automotivenews.com
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Every car will need to be modified for both brand and location of sales. Differentiation is a great thing, none of the Epsilon cars look the same. That's how it should be. I don't think you should be able to take the door, or bumper of a G6 and appy it to a Vectra. It does sound like a return to Badge Engineering, but we'll see.
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I don't think it has anything to do with badge engineering, it's purely under the skin. They just said that the 9-3 couldn't be built with the Malibu and G6 etc, so if the Malibu and G6 are different enough for you, then I think Epsilon II will work similarly but in every region.
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It just means the Saab epsilon was changed by changing the points where the platform mounts to the assembly line. This has nothing to do with the exterior or part sharing. They will still be allowed to modify the platform, as long as they can still be built on the same assembly line.
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